USC Women’s Water Polo Earns 18th Straight NCAA Tournament Spot
The USC women's water polo team has secured its 18th straight NCAA tournament berth in earning the No. 2 seed into this 2022 tournament. The defending NCAA champs, the Trojans are looking to win back-to-back national titles for the first time in program history. USC carries an 18-3 record into the 2022 National Collegiate Women's Water Polo Championship, hosted this year by Michigan at Canham Natatorium in Ann Arbor, Mich., from May 6-8. The USC women will be looking for its eighth national championship.
USC head coach Marko Pintaric is in his third season at the helm, and this marks his second NCAA Tournament with the Women of Troy after 2020 competition was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2022 Trojans went undefeated in MPSF regular-season action and finished as runners-up at the MPSF Tournament last weekend. Pintaric was named MPSF Coach of the Year for the second straight season, with six Trojans earning All-MPSF accolades. Both 2020 Olympians and captains this season, Tilly Kearns and Paige Hauschild were named to the All-MPSF First Team. Kearns leads USC in scoring to date with 56 goals, and Hauschild has slotted 43. Meanwhile, USC returns several key members of its 2021 NCAA Championship squad, including All-Americans Bayley Weber, Grace Tehaney and Mireia Guiral. The balanced Trojan roster is averaging 15.3 goals and 7.1 goals-against per game as USC enters NCAA action.
Winners of seven previous national championships, USC holds a 37-12 all-time record in NCAA tournaments. Last year, the Trojans were the top seeds and had dropped just a single game all year. USC would avenge that loss in the NCAA title match. After opening with a 24-5 win over Marist, USC beat Arizona State 10-4 in the semifinals. That brought up a rematch against host UCLA, which USC overpowered with an 18-9 victory that set an NCAA record for goals scored and margin of victory in a final and secured USC's seventh national championship.
USC's first title came in 1999 before the NCAA sponsored women's water polo. In 2004, USC posted the first-ever undefeated season on the way to capturing the 2014 NCAA title. USC's third title came in 2010 — the last time the Trojans swept the MPSF coach, player and newcomer awards — in a championship won over Stanford. Three years later in 2013, the Trojans topped the Cardinal in tripe sudden-death overtime — the longest NCAA final in history — to claim a fourth national championship for USC. In another three years, USC was back on top once more, posting a second undefeated season en route to the 2016 NCAA Championship in another epic battle against Stanford. And 2018 brought USC its sixth crown in a defensive 5-4 win over Stanford at the Trojans' Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
This year's National Collegiate field includes seven automatic qualifiers from conference championships and two at-large teams. Six teams qualify directly to the championship field, and the remaining four teams will compete in Opening Round games on May 4. Those winners will advance to quarterfinal games set for May 6, with semifinals held May 7 and the NCAA Championship game set for 4 p.m. ET on May 8. All games will be played at Michigan's Canham Natatorium.
Earning automatic berths this year are Stanford (MPSF), Michigan (CWPA), Fresno State (Golden Coast), UC Irvine (Big West), Salem (WWPA) and Wagner (MAAC). This year's at-large teams are USC, California and UCLA — all out of the MPSF.
USC (18-3) will open the 2022 NCAA Tournament on May 6, against Fresno State (19-7). In the ] Opening Round game on May 4, Wagner (34-3) will play Salem (18-15) for the right to play top seed Stanford (22-2) on May 6. The other May 6 quarterfinal matchups are set: No. 4 seed UCLA (22-5) takes on UC Irvine (22-6), while No. 3 seed California (16-5) faces host Michigan (26-8). Winners advance to May 7 semifinal rounds, with the 2022 national championship bout set for 4 p.m. ET on May 8.