USC hopes to strengthen playoff case

first_imgThe USC women’s water polo team may have suffered its first loss of the season on April 13, but the team will have an excellent opportunity to get back on the right track today at No. 4 UCLA.Scoring needed · Freshman Anni Espar and USC’s water polo team are prepared for a shootout against UCLA after an 11-10 win on Feb. 24. – Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan An undefeated season is now out of the question, but a spotless record was never the goal for this squad; their ultimate goal, the NCAA championship, is still well within reach.The Women of Troy face stiff competition in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, but a win tonight would earn them the No. 2 seed in the MPSF postseason tournament and help their case for reaching the NCAA tournament.“If we win against UCLA, we are considered a lock for the NCAA tournament,” USC head coach Jovan Vavic said.Earning a bid to the NCAA tournament for women’s water polo is considerably tougher than being invited, for example, to the NCAA basketball tournament because only eight teams are selected from the nation’s six conferences. All six winners automatically earn bids, and only two at-large schools are invited.The Women of Troy are not ruled out of winning the MPSF tournament, but a win against UCLA would help their case for selection should they fail to win the conference. USC, UCLA and Stanford are all top national programs, but only one can win the MPSF tournament, so the remaining two will be locked in a struggle to stay in contention for the at-large bids.It’s easy to see that USC’s road to the national championship will not be easy, but a win in tonight’s contest would be a big step in the right direction. If the Women of Troy are to win, however, they will have to overcome some tough challenges presented by the Bruins.“UCLA is a fast team,” Vavic said. “They do a good job of counterattacking, they are a deep and balanced team and they play a lot of players.”Less than two months ago, the Women of Troy were exposed by this speed as the Bruins hung with them until the final seconds, when USC junior two-meter Kaleigh Gilchrist put away a game-winning goal with just two seconds to play.For a team that is used to winning games in blowout fashion, USC will have to be on its guard for all four periods. UCLA is not necessarily an offensive juggernaut, but they feature a couple of offensive threats in sophomore attacker Emily Donohoe (2.18 goals per game) and freshman attacker Rachel Fattal (1.93 goals per game) who can do damage to opposing defenses.“We need to be aware and not fall asleep,” Vavic said. “They like to play a grab-and-go offense where they grab your suit and sprint past you. We also need to be aware on offense because any turnover will lead to a fast break.”Turnovers were a major contributor to the loss to Stanford on Saturday, so look for the squad to make smarter passes in the pool against UCLA, especially when USC has a man advantage.“We are working on our 6-on-5 this week,” Vavic said. “[Against Stanford], we had open people, but we weren’t aware they were open. And we made bad passes when they weren’t open, and those became turnovers.”The game will begin at 5 p.m. at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center in Westwood.last_img

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