No. 5 Cal women’s water polo honors seniors, hosts No. 2 USC

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The Cal women’s water polo season is winding down, and each game has become incrementally more important as teams gear up for the playoffs. For four Bears, the upcoming match between No. 5 Cal and No. 2 USC will hold even more meaning — this Saturday, or Senior Day, will be the last time Emily Loughlin, Genevieve Weed, Madeline Trabucco and Stephanie Mutafyan play in front of their home crowd.

“It’s definitely a bittersweet moment for me as a senior, but I’m just so beyond thankful and blessed to be a part of such an amazing program,” Trabucco said. “I’m just so excited for the rest of our season.”

The class of 2017 has been stellar both in and out of the pool. The quartet has combined for 75 career victories, two NCAA Championships appearances and six ACWPC All-Academic awards.

Loughlin has been a steady contributor on offense this season. The team’s co-captain is fourth on the team with 21 goals, and she is just two scores away from hitting the century mark in her college career.

Serving as the other co-captain, Weed has been a model of consistency for the Bears, having appeared in all of the team’s 20 games this season. After scoring just eight goals in her first two years combined, the driver from Newport Beach, California, has broken out, netting 21 and 10 goals in her junior and senior seasons, respectively. Weed also excels in the classroom, as she has achieved Superior status on the ACWPC All-Academic team in her first three years at Cal.

As the Bears’ primary goalkeeper, Trabucco anchors the defense and is a force to be reckoned with in the cage. She is currently averaging 7.5 saves per game, and with her career total now sitting at 536, Trabucco only needs two more blocks to move into the fourth spot on Cal’s all-time saves list. Barring any unexpected circumstances, she will achieve the feat in front of the home crowd this Saturday.

Lastly, Mutafyan’s contributions cannot be overlooked on a team that has been bit by the injury bug. She has played in all 20 games this season and has added 14 goals to her ledger. In addition, she’s earned the ACWPC All-Academic Excellent status in the past two seasons.

Heading into the match against the Trojans, the younger Bears will be looking to these four experienced seniors for guidance on stopping an overpowering USC team. The Trojans (25-1, 3-1 MPSF) lead the MPSF in scoring with 15.9 goals per game, but they just had their NCAA record 52 game-winning streak snapped by No. 1 Stanford last weekend. After going undefeated for about two years, the Trojans probably aren’t keen on starting a losing streak. USC is hungry for a bounceback win and will be looking to play spoilers to Cal’s Senior Day.

“We’re just going to come out super hard and focus on defense first,” Trabucco said. “The offense will come.”

Trabucco will hold a critical role in trying to contain the explosive Trojans offense. It’s a demanding job, but would there be a better way to finish off your last home game than shutting down an offensive juggernaut?

Leo Liu covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].