The No. 1 USC Trojans traveled to Bloomington, Ind., to take on the No. 15 Indiana Hoosiers in two matches on Friday and Saturday. The Trojans looked like they would have an easy go-around against the Hoosiers, who had an 8-8 record. Fighting fatigue from unusual travel, USC managed to pull out two wins, 10-8 on Friday and 19-10 on Sunday, but Indiana put up a good fight. It took one and a half games before USC looked like the best team in the nation.
The Trojans were missing their leading scorer, redshirt senior utility Maud Megens, who has 22 goals on the season. Megens stayed at USC to rest in preparation for the remainder of the season, according to head coach Marko Pintaric.
Other key players stepped up to fill in the spot of the prolific scorer. Redshirt senior driver Denise Mammolito tallied nine goals through Friday and Saturday. In the second game, Mammolito scored five goals, matching her single-game scoring record. Her nine goals moved her into the 13th spot on USC’s career scoring list.
“I think Denise definitely stepped up as a leader in this group,” Pintaric said. “She really did her part offensively and defensively in the first and second game. In defense, she pretty much dominated, as expected, and she did phenomenal.”
Senior driver Verica Bakoc notched hat tricks in both battles. Bakoc has had a breakout season, earning her first-ever MPSF Player of the Week honor on March 22. She has already swiftly passed her previous season-high of 14 goals, with 26 so far.
Coming into the matchup, USC averaged 13 goals scored and 6.6 allowed per game. The Trojans’ 10-8 victory on Friday was not their best offensive or defensive performance in the slightest.
After the first half, USC had a 6-2 lead over Indiana, but the Trojans let their guard down and gave the Hoosiers quality power play and scoring opportunities. Indiana got within one goal at one point, but USC was able to hold on for the win.
Redshirt senior goalie Holly Parker bailed out the team for its defensive mistakes, making a career-high 12 saves. Parker has carved out the No. 8 spot on USC’s all-time career saves list.
In the second contest, USC was up 9-8 after the first half, mirroring the closeness of the previous game. The eight goals were the most the Trojans have given up in a half this season.
But once the Trojans hit the third quarter, they cranked up the heat. Through the second half, USC unloaded an impressive 10 goals and allowed only two for a commanding 19-10 victory.
The Trojans cannot afford to drop their energy at any time against their next opponent, No. 2 Stanford.
“Stanford is traditionally a pressing team, especially in transition,” Pintaric said. “When you play against Stanford, you have to get ready to play a team that is committed to defense. It’s gonna be tough to break that initial press, and we’re getting ready for that.”
USC will tackle Stanford at Uytengsu Aquatic Center on Saturday and Sunday.