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No. 1 USC Women Face No. 8 Fresno State Friday Under The Lights At Uytengsu Aquatics Center

Feb 2, 2022

#1 USC (2-0) vs. #8 Fresno State (3-5)
Friday, Feb. 4 | 5 p.m. | Uytengsu Aquatics Center
Series Record: USC leads 1-0 (W1)
Last Meeting: USC 19, FST 3 (Jan. 19, 2019)

#1 USC vs. #11 San José State (6-3)
Saturday, Feb. 5 | 10:20 a.m. | Spieker Aquatics Center (Westwood)
Series Record: USC leads 42-0 (W42)
Last Meeting: USC 12, SJSU 5 (March 28, 2021)

This week, No. 1 USC (2-0) brings No. 8 Fresno State (3-5) to Uytengsu Aquatics Center for a 5 p.m. faceoff on Friday (Feb. 4). From there, the Trojans head to Westwood for a nonconference meeting against No. 11 San José State (6-3) at 10:20 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 5) at the UCLA Mini Invite.

USC start up 2022 in the same spot it left off, with the defending NCAA champs opening up at No. 1 in this year's preseason poll. In the latest national rankings (released Feb. 2), the Trojans remain the top-ranked team in the nation.

The No. 8 Bulldogs enter the week at 3-5 overall after going 2-2 at the Cal Cup last week, falling 12-7 to Cal and 10-9 to San José State and beating UC Davis 10-6 and Long Beach State 14-9. Fanni Muzsnay leads Fresno State in scoring with 18 goals to date. Goalie Paula Nieto Jasny is averaging 7.1 saves and 10.9 goals-against per game. The Trojans and Bulldogs have met just once before — 19-3 USC victory at the 2019 UCSB Winter Invitational.

The No. 11 Spartans enter the week at 6-3 overall after going 2-2 at the Cal Cup last week, falling 14-13 to UC Davis in overtime and to Cal 17-10 while beating Fresno State 10-9 and Pacific 14-13 in overtime. Olga Descalzi leads SJSU in scoring with 23 goals to date. Goalie Elaina Davey is averaging 8.3 saves and 9.7 goals-against per game. In a series dating back to 1998, USC is 42-0 all-time against SJSU. The teams met twice last season, with the Trojans beating the Spartans by scores of 11-5 and 12-5.

USC blasted out of the starting gates of its 2022 campaign with back-to-back 30-goal outings, exploding for a 31-4 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the season opener and then following that by tying a program record with a 33-2 victory over Occidental. Sixteen different Trojans scored across the two hefty wins to help top-ranked USC to a notable 2-0 start to the year. Carolyne Stern manned the cage for the first game, hauling in seven saves to back up a stingy USC defense. On the offensive end, 15 Trojans would get to the back of the net, led by 2020 Olympian Tilly Kearns' five goals. She was one of three Trojans back in the water after taking time with their national teams for Olympic training, and all three played expectedly significant roles as they settled right back in alongside their Trojan teammates. Kearns would add another five-goal outing — matching her career high set as a freshman in 2019 — against Occidental, while Spaniard Alejandra Aznar got right back to business as well in lacing in two goals against CMS and the sizzling in three against Occidental.  Team USA Olympian Paige Hauschild, meanwhile, tallied six goals across the two Trojan victories. USC would score the first 17 goals of the game against CMS, and opened with a 9-0 start to the Occidental affair to take complete control in each contest. Against the Tigers, Erin Tharp capped up in the cage, going the distance and giving up just two goals while hauling in four saves to anchor that hefty victory. On the offensive end, Mireia Guiral matched Kearns' output with five goals for the Trojan cause. USC's 33 goals against Occidental tied the program record for single-game goals, set back in 2015. True freshmen Honnie Vandeweghe-O'Shea and Isabel Zimmerman made their presence known with goals in both games.

For the first time since 2009, USC will have two Trojans in the water coming off of Olympic experiences in 2020 Olympians Paige Hauschild (USA) and Tilly Kearns (Australia). Extra International influx comes from Spain's Alejandra Aznar, who also took time away from USC to train with her national team for the Games, although she did not compete in Tokyo. That trio last capped up together as Trojans in 2019 — Hauschild's sophomore season and the first for Kearns and Aznar. That year, they scored a combined 119 goals — almost 30 percent of USC's total output in a season that saw the Trojans win the MPSF Tournament and come  up just short of the 2019 NCAA title. Altogether, they are a triple threat all their own. Hauschild wields a ferocious outside shot that combines with immense strength as a defender. Kearns is a proven force at the two-meter spot. And Aznar boasts a deft left hand to give USC's balance a depth charge. But offensive firepower only scratches the surface of their overall value to the Trojans this season. 

BACK TO  IT            
Headlining USC's returning talent pool are returning All-Americans Mireia Guiral, Grace Tehaney and Bayley Weber. They pumped in a combined 93 goals, including six in the 18-9 NCAA championship victory last year. Similar to the versatility of Hauschild, Kearns and Aznar, respectively, this trio offers up defensive strength in Weber, two-meter prowess in Guiral and a left-haded laser in Tehaney. Just a freshman in 2021, Julia Janov gleaned invaluable experience as a member of that championship squad, while relative veterans Sabrina Garabet and Sophia Lucas also soaked in significant playing time to solidify their roles as leaders this year. And on the defensive end, USC has two strong goalies returning to help anchor the Trojans in upperclassmen Erin Tharp and Carolyne Stern. 

NEW NORMAL             
As it looks now, this will be the first "normal" season for USC women's water polo following two years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. USC's 2020 campaign was cut short with the Trojans ranked No. 1 in the nation. And 2021 featured a modified schedule with expanded MPSF competition and minimal nonconference competition en route to the Trojans' run to the national championship. As 2022 competition kicks off on Saturday (Jan. 29), USC is looking toward another powerful season that ultimately will see the Trojans maneuver into yet another NCAA appearance. USC has made it to all 17 NCAA tournaments, with no plans to change course. The Trojans also have the benefit of hosting this year's MPSF Tournament, which will run April 22-24 at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

LAST SEASON            
In 2021, USC dropped just one game all season (22-1) en route to a record-breaking win in the NCAA championship game that marked USC's seventh national championship and first under head coach Marko Pintaric. The Trojans beat Stanford 9-6 in the MPSF Tournament title match and later avenged their only loss of the year with a dominant 18-9 win over UCLA in the national championship game, scoring the most goals ever in an NCAA final. Eventual Cutino Award winner Maud Megens scored six of those goals for the Trojans. She would also be named National Player of the Year, and Pintaric was picked as National Coach of the Year. Megens was one of a program record-tying eight All-Americans in 2021, joined on the All-America First Team by fellow seniors Denise Mammolito and Holly Parker. Junior Bayley Weber earned Second Team status, and senior Kelsey McIntosh was a Third Team pick. And earning All-America Honorable Mention were Verica Bakoc, Mireia Guiral and Grace Tehaney. •