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No. 1 USC Women's Water Polo Takes Off For Four Games In Tempe

Feb 24, 2021


ASU Invitational (Mona Plummer Aquatic Center | Tempe, Ariz.)
Friday, Feb. 26
9 a.m. MT — USC at Arizona State     LIVE STATS 
Saturday, Feb. 27
9:30 a.m. MT — USC at Arizona State     LIVE STATS
2 p.m. MT — USC vs. Michigan     LIVE STATS
Sunday,  Feb. 28
9 a.m. MT — USC vs. Michigan     LIVE STATS

THIS WEEK        
No. 1 USC gears up for a four-game run in Tempe, Ariz., this week, as the Trojans engage in action at the ASU Invitational from Feb. 26-28 at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center. USC (1-0) opens up against host Arizona State (5-0) for a 9 a.m. MT matchup on Friday (Feb. 26). On Saturday (Feb. 27), USC takes on the Sun Devils again at 9:30 a.m. MT and then turns to face Michigan (4-0) at 2 p.m. MT. USC's competition at the event wraps up on Sunday (Feb. 28) with another battle against the Wolverines at 9 a.m. MT.
USC started this 2021 campaign in the same spot it wrapped up the shortened 2020 season — at No. 1 in the nation. The Trojans have remained in that top spot since those Feb. 7 preseason rankings, staying at No. 1 in this latest set of national rankings (released Feb. 24).

The No. 4 Sun Devils enter the week at 5-0 overall after posting 15-3 and 23-9 wins over Cal Baptist in their latest competition. Luca Petovary leads ASU in scoring with 18 goals to date. Goalie Itzahiana Baca is averaging 5.5 saves and 5.8 goals-against per game. In a series dating back to 2003, USC is 31-2 all-time against ASU with wins in the last 10 meetings. The teams did not get to meet last season, but in 2019 the Trojans beat the Sun Devils 7-1 at the Barbara Kalbus Invite and 17-3 in an MPSF game at USC.

The No. 6 Wolverines enter the week at 4-0 overall after a winning run at the Michigan Invite last week, beating Indiana twice — 8-5 and 11-6 — and topping Salem 12-7 and Saint Francis 13-2. Erin Neustrom and Libby Alsemgeest lead Michigan in scoring with five goals each. Goalie Heidi Ritner is averaging 7.0 saves and 5.5 goals-against per game. In a series dating back to 1997, USC is 15-0 all-time against Michigan. The teams did not get to meet last season, but in 2019 the Trojans beat the Wolverines 9-2 at the Gaucho Invite and 10-3 at the Triton Invite.

Almost a year to the day since its last competition at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, the No. 1 USC women's water polo team got right back to business in drumming up a 12-7 win over visiting UC Irvine on Feb. 13. The Anteaters were actually USC's last opponent at Uytengsu — a 9-6 Trojan win on Feb. 15, 2020. In tonight's clash, USC was powered up by a five-goal outing from Maud Megens and backed up by nine saves from Holly Parker to help the top-ranked Trojans to a 1-0 start to 2021. After Grace Tehaney lit the fuse on USC's offensive efforts with a goal in the first minute, Maud Megens had a hat trick by the close the first quarter as USC netted a 4-1 lead after eight minutes of action. Goalie Holly Parker would snuff an early Anteater 6-on-5 chance with a save, and then Kelsey McIntosh found Téa Poljak for a score that got USC up 5-1 early in the second. UC Irvine converted on a power play later, only to see Megens hit Denise Mammolito for a 6-on-5 slam 10 seconds before the halftime buzzer, and USC was up 6-2 at the break. In the third, the Anteaters managed back-to-back goals to make it 6-4, only to see Megens bust out a laser on a 6-on-5 and then strike on the counter to build back that four-goal lead. Entering the fourth, USC was up 9-6, and the Trojans stayed in full control with three more goals in the final frame. Verica Bakoc struck first, and after Parker squashed an Anteater 5-meter penalty shot it was freshman Julia Janov who notched her first goal as a Trojan to take USC ahead 11-6. UC Irvine got a 6-on-5 to go next, but Grace Tehaney would wrap up her hat trick to get USC ahead 12-7, and the Trojans held tight to that lead the rest of the way.

In her first game back with the Trojans since May 2019, Maud Megens drummed up five goals in USC's 2021 season-opening win over UC Irvine. For her dominant efforts, Megens was selected as the MPSF Player of the Week on Feb. 16. It's the sixth such honor for Megens, who took the 2020 season off to train with the Dutch National Team in preparation for Olympic Qualifying. With Megens' help, the Netherlands earned Olympic qualification last month to book a trip to Tokyo this summer. Now back in the water with her USC team, Megens stands tall for the Trojans. In addition to the five goals she scored for USC against UC Irvine, Megens also delivered four assists and had a steal in the 12-7 win. Megens is the first to earn MPSF Player of the Week accolades this season as women's competition gets underway for 2021.

SUPER SENIORS             
Captains Denise Mammolito and Kelsey McIntosh — both All-Americans — are back for a fifth season at USC after having their eligibility extended with last season's mid-March cancellation, which had stalled out the 12-1 Trojans while ranked No. 1 in the nation. Mammolito and McIntosh's experience and leadership is bolstered further by the return of All-American Maud Megens, who took the 2020 season off to train with her Dutch National Team. With the Netherlands' Olympic qualification earned last month, Megens is back in the water with her fellow Women of Troy. USC's depth charge of leadership includes another All-American in her fifth season at USC — goalie Holly Parker reflects the balance in the Trojans' pool of experience for 2021. That foursome, along with seniors Verica Bakoc, Sabrina Garabet, Kari Jensen and Randi Reinhardt, already have one NCAA championship ring from 2018. And after missing the chance to claim a crown last season, this senior group is bound and determined to bring another trophy back to Troy in 2021.

DEPTH CHARGE            
Seniors Verica Bakoc and Sabrina Garabet are joined by All-American Grace Tehaney as the Trojans' trio of left-handed sharpshooters on the perimeter. More All-American talent shines though in junior Bayley Weber, with her ability to be a force at both ends of the pool. Fellow junior Claire Haas has grown in her role at the two-meter slot, where Reinhardt also checks in and junior Mireia Guiral has proven herself an All-American power. Starting up their second seasons at USC, the Trojans have Brooklyn Aguilera, Christina Crum and Téa Poljak in line for increased action in 2021, along another solid junior in Sophia Lucas. Additionally, USC has a welcome boost of fresh talent in a set of four true freshmen in the field — Abigail Hendrix, Julia Janov, Hannah Meyer and Taylor Vangrin. 

CAGE FIGHTERS            
Meanwhile, USC's goalkeeping corps has a formidable stash of experience and skill. All-American Parker is the veteran of the group, but both redshirt sophomore Erin Tharp and true sophomore Carolyne Stern saw time between the pipes last year. All told, USC's defense will have a reliable red cap backing it up regardless of who checks in. And with defensive savvy abounding, USC has all the ingredients to be a dangerous counterattacking team as well.