USC hosted a round-robin tournament at Uytengsu Aquatic Center this past weekend, finishing 0-3 against MPSF rivals Stanford, Cal and UCLA.
It was a disappointing showing for the No. 2-ranked Trojans, who are now 2-5 on the season.
“Offensively and defensively, we are not playing our water polo,” head coach Marko Pintaric said. “Our timing is completely off.”
The Trojans came out strong Saturday morning against No. 1 Stanford, leading 6-3 after the first quarter. However, after that it was all Stanford, who scored seven unanswered goals. USC was unable to make a comeback and fell 14-8.
On Saturday night, the Trojans played a lot more competitively against Cal but trailed the entire game. The Trojans outshot the Bears 33-26 but the stellar defense on their opponent’s side reigned supreme. USC could not get into high-danger positions and lost 11-8.
Cal finished 3-0 in the tournament, proving to be a huge threat in future conference play.
In the 175th all-time matchup between USC and UCLA, defense proved to be the bottom line. The teams were tied 3-3 going into the third period, but UCLA broke through thanks to a few power plays and a penalty shot goal. USC could not get its offense going and lost 7-5.
Although they lost against UCLA, Pintaric noted that the Trojans made substantial adjustments to get in deeper and better shooting opportunities.
Throughout the tournament, exclusions and penalties were key issues that prevented USC from coming out on top.The Trojans allowed nine power-play goals and four penalty-shot goals over the three games.
“That’s another indicator for the coaching staff that the team is not mentally and physically where it’s supposed to be,” Pintaric said.
Another major fault in USC’s play was its inability to keep pressure on in the third quarter. Across all three games, USC was outscored 12-5 in the third frame.
“Our third quarter is very crucial in all these games. We are going to try to address why our focus is dropping down in the third quarter,” Pintaric said. “It’s another indicator that our team is not in top form.”
Though these were upsetting performances for USC, there were still some bright spots. Senior driver Jacob Mercep leads the conference in goals and points, with 20 and 26, respectively. Sophomore driver Marcus Longton notched four goals over the weekend, including a hat trick against Stanford.
“We can only learn from our mistakes from this weekend and use it to become better and stronger toward the end of the season,” Pintaric said.
The Trojans will hope to break their five-game losing streak on Sunday against Pepperdine in a non-conference match. After that, they will have the third and final conference tournament Feb. 20-21 at Stanford to determine the seeding for the MPSF Championship.