With a dominant victory over UCLA on Saturday, the Trojans clinched the No. 1 rank in the NCAA and the MPSF as well as a nearly-perfect 21-1 regular season record. Now, the team turns its focus to the postseason: two weeks of grueling rematches against some of its fiercest foes in the pool. Postseason play will begin with the MPSF Tournament in Berkeley this weekend.
With their newly claimed position in the conference, the Trojans will take a bye during the first round of play on Friday, resting as No. 3 seed Stanford faces No. 6 seed San Jose State and No. 4 seed UCLA takes on No. 5 seed Arizona State. The Cal Bears will also take a seat during the first round of play as the No. 2 seed.
In the second round, the Trojans will face off against the winner of the game between UCLA and Arizona State. The team already defeated both teams handily in the regular season, and it’s fresh off of its victory over UCLA last weekend. However, wins earlier in the season often come back to haunt MPSF teams when they battle in the conference tournament, and UCLA has often knocked the Trojans off of their top-seeded pedestal in postseason play.
If the Trojans advance to the finals, they will have a shot at avenging their only loss of the season — a 3-9 defeat against then-No. 1 Stanford early in the season. The team was already able to balance the scales with a win over the Cardinal two weeks ago, solidly handling the team 8-5 at home, but the chance to prove themselves in a third meeting would give the season advantage to the Trojans. To do that, however, Stanford would have to knock off No. 2 seed Cal, which USC has already met and defeated twice this season.
After the MPSF Tournament, the Trojans will return home to host the NCAA Championships at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center the following week. After winning the championship in 2016, the team didn’t make it to the finals last year and was instead forced to watch rivals, Stanford and UCLA, battle for the championship. This season, the team refuses to sit on the sidelines, and with the best record in the nation, they look to prove themselves with a title win.
Senior utility Hayley McKelvey earned a sizable confidence boost after the victory over UCLA last weekend, leading the offense with a career-high of 5 goals on Senior Day. The standout performance earned her first career distinction as MPSF Player of the Week, becoming the first player on the roster to be named as the conference’s weekly selection.
McKelvey is typically a defensive force for the Trojans, locking down the team’s smothering performance when guarding its goal. In continuation of that role, she snagged four steals to help the team hold the Bruins to 5 goals. She added an assist to her 5 goals, which moved her to No. 26 in all-time scoring in program history with 106 goals over her four-year career in cardinal and gold. The senior has now scored in the past seven games, as the Trojans notched a perfect record in MPSF play.
The Trojans will lean on senior leadership from McKelvey and senior keeper Amanda Longan as they enter postseason play. Throughout the regular season, the team held opponents to low-scoring performances, controlling the pulse of play for all four quarters. That style of play will be the team’s greatest asset as it enters two weeks of rigorous play against the top teams in the game, as it will most likely face the same teams for both the conference and national championships.
With the regular season coming to a close, the Trojans have achieved near perfection. All that stands between this team and two more trophies to add to their case is the next two weeks of postseason play.