2022 USC women’s water polo outlook: Trojans ready to defend NCAA championship

Women’s water polo | January 28, 2022

Entering his third season at the helm of USC’s women’s water polo program, head coach Marko Pintaric likes what he sees. Again. These 2022 Trojans are ready to defend the NCAA title they won last year, thanks to an influx of world-class talent as well as a reliable force of returning champions.

“I’m excited to be working with this new group and trying to achieve our goal of winning another national championship,” Pintaric said.

For the first time since 2009, USC will have two Trojans in the water after Olympic experiences in 2020 Olympians Paige Hauschild (United States) and Tilly Kearn (Australia). The additional international influx comes from Spain Alejandra Aznar, who also took time off from USC to train with her national team for the Games, although she did not compete in Tokyo. This trio last ended as the Trojans in 2019 – the second season for Hauschild and the first for Kearns and Aznar. That year, they scored 119 goals combined, nearly 30% of USC’s total output in a season that saw the Trojans win the MPSF Tournament and fall just short of the 2019 NCAA title. .

Altogether, they are a triple threat on their own. Hauschild wields a ferocious outside shot that combines with immense strength as a defender. Kearns is a proven force at the two-yard point. And Aznar boasts a deft left hand to give USC balance a depth charge. But offensive firepower only scratches the surface of their overall value to the Trojans this season.

“Paige, Tilly and Ale are a super important part of our team,” Pintaric said. “They were gone for two years, but the time with us before Olympic training allowed them to assimilate into our training very quickly. Paige established herself as a team leader both inside and outside water. And you can see the maturity and growth of Tilly and Ale not just as water polo players, but as human beings.”

As this group grew and gained experience in the distance, their Trojan teammates won a seventh national championship. In 2021, USC lost just one game all season en route to a record win in the NCAA Championship Game. USC’s top three scorers in that run have since graduated, along with two other All-American winners. And yet, even after the departure of five All-Americans, USC still got the nod as the No. 1 team in the nation in the 2022 preseason rankings. The return of Hauschild, Kearns and Aznar is surely a boost to that credit, but there’s still a stockpile of returning talent from that 2021 Championship roster.

“It will be interesting to see how they complement the rest of the squad,” Pintaric said of Hauschild, Kearns and Aznar. “The seniors we’ve lost, we can’t replace them, but we have a great talent for keeping up the pace.”

Headlining that talent pool goes to the All-Americans Mireia Guiral, Grace Tehaney and Bayley Weber. They scored 93 goals combined, including six in the 18-9 NCAA Championship win. Similar to the versatility of Hauschild, Kearns and Aznar, respectively, this trio offers defensive strength in Weber, two-yard prowess in Guiral and a laser on the left in Tehaney.

Just a freshman in 2021, Julia Janov gleaned invaluable experience as a member of this championship team, while relative veterans Sabrina Garabet and Sophie Lucas have also benefited from significant playing time to consolidate their leading role this year. And on the defensive end, USC has two solid goalies returning to help anchor the Trojans in the upper classes. Erin Thrap and Caroline Stern.

“There’s a very healthy competition between Carolyne and Erin,” Pintaric said. “We have high expectations from the goalkeeper side to be in charge of our defence. I have seen them develop and we have confidence in their performance.”

In addition to returning stalwarts from USC, the Trojans are welcoming plenty of new faces to an outstanding class of freshman talent. A spring addition to the roster, Honnie Vandewegh-O’Shea was a quick adjustment and is considered an immediate impact player by Pintaric. Another key rookie in the mix with impressive efforts in his first year as a Trojan rider Isabelle Zimmerman.

At present, this will be the first “normal” season for USC women’s water polo after 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 non-conference competition en route to the Trojans’ run to the national championship. As the 2022 competition kicks off on Saturday (January 29), USC looks to another powerful season that will finally see the Trojans maneuvering for another appearance in the NCAA. USC has appeared in all 17 NCAA tournaments, with no intention of changing course. The Trojans also have the advantage of hosting this year’s MPSF tournament, which will take place from April 22-24 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

“It’s always great to play in your own house in front of your own fans. We can’t wait to host MPSF,” Pintaric said. “A lot of teams this year are deeper and stronger, and it’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the season goes. It’s going to be very competitive.

USC’s 2022 campaign begins Saturday, January 28 with a double-header with a 2 p.m. clash against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps followed by a 3:15 p.m. meeting with Occidental at Marks Stadium.

Comments are closed.