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No. 3 USC Women’s Water Polo Hits Home Waters To Host Hoosiers Saturday

Mar 9, 2022

#3 USC (11-2, 1-0) vs. #15 Indiana (10-9, 0-1)
Saturday, March 12 | 11 a.m. | Uytengsu Aquatics Center
Series Record: USC leads 14-0 (W14)
Last Meeting: USC 19, IU 10 (April 3, 2021)

No. 3 USC is back in home waters for its second MPSF matchup of the season, as the Trojans (11-2, 1-0 MPSF) host No. 15 Indiana (10-9, 0-1) this  weekend. USC and the Hoosiers will square off at 11 a.m. on Saturday (March 12) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, where the Trojans have won 14 straight games dating back to 2019.

USC started 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. USC remained on top for the first three weeks of competition and was at No. 3 for one week before going up to No. 2. In the latest national rankings (released March 9), the Trojans now rank No. 3 in the nation.
The No. 15 Hoosiers are 10-9 overall after going 3-1 at the Harvard Invitational, where Indiana beat Harvard 12-9 in overtime, fell to Wagner 7-6 and then beat Cal Lutheran 12-5 and Brown 9-6. Izzy Mandema leads IU in scoring with 2.3 goals per game, and goalie Mary Askew is averaging 7.2 saves per game. In a series dating back to 1997, USC is 14-0 all-time against Indiana after collecting two wins — 10-8 and 19-10 — in Bloomington last year.
USC took third place at the 2022 Barbara Kalbus Invitational in its last competition. The Trojans opened with a 21-2 win over Pomona-Pitzer and then topped Long Beach State 16-5 to finish group play on a winning note. In the semifinals, USC came up against a strong Stanford squad that posted a 16-10 win over the Trojans to take the ticket to the title match. That put USC in the third-place game against  Hawai'i, and the Trojans would put forth a solid second half to notch an 11-8 win over the Rainbow Wahine. Four Trojans hit the back of the net in all four games, with Tilly Kearns topping out with four multiple-goal efforts to total 10 goals at the event. Paige Hauschild was next with nine, while Honnie Vandeweghe-O'Shea had six. Sabrina Garabet also served up on goal each game for the Trojans.

In USC's first MPSF clash against undefeated Cal, Tilly Kearns scored three goals, drew four exclusions and had two steals in a 13-7 Trojan win over the Golden Bears. For her powerful performance in USC's key conference win, Kearns earned her first selection as MPSF Player of the Week on Feb. 22. Kearns' first goal helped build an 8-5 halftime lead for USC, and she'd score two more in the third as USC shut out Cal in that frame to lead it 12-5. Kearns has scored in every game for the Trojans and is their top scorer with 29 goals to date.

USC's top scorer at the Triton Invitational, Bayley Weber extended her run of multi-goal games to eight straight and has deservedly earned her first career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week on Feb. 15. Weber tallied 11 goals for the Trojans in their run to the Triton Invite final. She scored three goals in the title match, an 11-10 loss to UCLA, after providing two in USC's 9-7 win over Hawai'i in the semifinals that morning. Weber also scored two to help beat UCSB 17-6 and then four goals to beat Long Beach State 17-6 in group play on Saturday. Weber is currently USC's second leading scorer with 25 goals to date. She is the only player to have multiple-goal outing in every game this year, and she is the first Trojan to be named MPSF Player of the Week this season.

Thirteen games into the new year, USC has four Trojans already across the 20-goal mark on the offensive end. Tilly Kearns leads the way with 39 goals, followed closely by Bayley Weber's 33 blasts. Paige Hauschild and Grace Tehaney, meanwhile, are well in the zone with 27 and 26 goals, respectively. Kearns has scored in all 13 games, with Weber and Tehaney having struck in 12 each to date. Defensively, Carolyne Stern and Erin Tharp have shared time in the cage, averaging a combined 6.8 saves per game to anchor a Trojan defense giving up just 6.6 goals per game. USC has outscored opponents 216-86 so far, while holding teams scoreless in nine different periods to date.

ON THE RISE            
With her work at the Triton Invite, Grace Tehaney was the latest Trojan to work her way into the 100-goal club at USC, joining the earlier-inducted Bayley Weber. Tehaney is now at 109 career goals, while Weber currently holds 123 career goals as a Trojan. Meanwhile, Paige Hauschild is also on the climb, boasting 144 career goals to rank No. 14 all-time in the Trojan history books to date.

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-handed 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. •