No. 3 USC Women’s Water Polo Pays Visits To No. 1 Stanford, No. 13 San José State
#3 USC (13-2, 2-0) at #1 Stanford (14-1, 2-0)
Saturday, April 2 | 1 p.m. | Avery Aquatic Center (Stanford, Calif.)
Series Record: USC leads 41-39 (L1)
Last Meeting: STAN 16, USC 10 (Feb. 26, 2022)
LIVE STATS | LIVE STREAM
#3 USC at #13 San José State (11-2, 0-4)
Sunday, April 3 | 12 p.m. | SRAC Pool (San José, Calif.)
Series Record: USC leads 41-0 (W41)
Last Meeting: USC 20, SJSU 3 (Feb. 5, 2022)
No. 3 USC hits the road for a double dose of MPSF action this weekend. The Trojans (13-2, 2-0 MSPF) get a second look at No. 1 Stanford (14-1, 2-0) for a conference clast set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 2) at the Cardinal's Avery Aquatic Center. The next day, USC pays a Sunday (April 3) visit to No. 13 San José State in a 12 p.m. MPSF matchup to round out this week's road trip.
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 30), the Trojans remain ranked No. 3 in the nation for the third straight week.
The No. 1 Cardinal is 14-1 overall and 2-0 in MPSF play after an 11-9 win over UCLA last week. Makenzie Fischer leads Stanford in scoring with 49 goals each. Goalie Maya Avital is averaging 8.8 saves and 7.3 goals-against per game in 13 appearances. In a series dating back to 1996, USC is 41-39 all-time against Stanford after the Trojans' four-game win streak against the Cardinal came to a close with a 16-10 loss at the 2022 Barbara Kalbus Invitational.
The No. 13 Spartans are 11-12 overall and 0-4 in MPSF play after a 6-3 loss to Indiana last week. Riley Agerbeek leads San José State in scoring with 40 goals. Goalie Elaina Davey is averaging a 7.2 saves and 10.8 goals-against per game in her 17 appearances. In a series dating back to 1998, USC is 41-0 all-time against SJSU after claiming a 20-3 win over the Spartans when the teams met earlier this season at the UCLA Mini Invite.
USC stayed the course and never trailed hosts No. 5 Hawai'i on the way to a 12-9 road win over the Rainbow Wahine in Honolulu. The game tied up only once in the first period, and USC responded with back-to-back goals from Alejandra Aznar and Tilly Kearns to take a 5-3 lead after eight minutes of action. In the next stretch, Grace Tehaney and Bayley Weber struck for the Trojans to build a 7-4 lead, although the Rainbow Wahine answered back to make it a 7-5 margin by halftime. USC and Hawai'i stayed largely in stride in the third, but Paige Hauschild delivered a big one to beat the buzzer and net a 10-8 USC lead entering the fourth. In the final stretch, Kearns earned another 5-meter penalty — this one finished by Weber for her third goal of the night Kearns had the final word, zipping in her fourth with a 6-on-5 strike in the final minute to get USC a 12-9 lead it would not relinquish.
TILLY TAKES TWO
Tilly Kearns secured her second selection as the MPSF Player of the Week on March 22 after a powerful performance in Hawai'i. In a night game in Honolulu, Kearns scored a game-high four goals on five shots taken in USC's 12-9 road win at No. 5 Hawai'i. She scored twice in the first period to help the Trojans lead it 5-3 early, and her third also got USC a two-goal advantage, up 9-7 in the third. Kearns' fourth goal of the night was the final stroke in USC's 12-9 victory. Kearns leads the Trojans in scoring so far this season with 43 goals.
TILLY MAKES HER MPSF MARK
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.
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 40 goals to date. She also boasts multiple-goal outings in 14 games this year, and she was the first Trojan to be named MPSF Player of the Week this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
Fifteen games into the year, USC has two Trojans already in the 40-goal zome on the offensive end. Tilly Kearns leads the way with 43 goals, followed closely by Bayley Weber's 40 blasts. Grace Tehaney and Paige Hauschild, meanwhile, are in 30-goal terrain with 32 and 31 goals, respectively. Kearns, Weber and Tehaney have each scored in 14 of USC's 15 games to date. Defensively, Carolyne Stern and Erin Tharp have shared time in the cage, averaging a combined 7.2 saves per game to anchor a Trojan defense giving up just 6.5 goals per game. USC has outscored opponents 244-98 so far, while holding teams scoreless in 10 different periods to date.
ON THE RISE
With her work at the Triton Invite, Grace Tehaney became the latest Trojan to work her way into the 100-goal club at USC, joining the earlier-inducted Bayley Weber. Tehaney is now at 115 career goals, while Weber currently holds 130 career goals as a Trojan — ranking her at No. 20 all-time. Meanwhile, Paige Hauschild is also on the climb, boasting 148 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.
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.
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. •