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IU water polo enters tournament play in California as No. 7 seed


California State University junior utility Jennalyn Barthels blocks junior driver Emily Powell’s face March 3 in Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center. IU will compete in the MPSF Championship April 26-28 in Stanford, California. Alex Deryn

The Hoosiers closed out their regular season play in Bloomington last Saturday with a convincing 14-4 win over McKendree University.

IU will tipoff its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament game in school history Friday against conference opponent and defending national champion No. 2-seed University fo Southern California. IU comes in as a No. 7 seed in the tournament after finishing the season without any conference wins, going 0-6 in MPSF play.

IU first matched up against USC at the beginning of the season at the Santa Barbara Invitational where the team lost 11-1. The Hoosiers then traveled back to California the following month for a rematch, but lost again 19-1.

The Hoosiers have struggled against the defending national champions this year, producing just two goals in two matches. It's the depth of USC's lineup, not IU's scoring ability, which is the problem in this matchup. The Trojan roster is nearly double the size of the Hoosiers'.

If IU can find a way to stop USC on the offensive attack, then an upset could be in the making. The Hoosiers have had a stingy defense all season that some teams haven’t been able to figure out.

When the defense is clicking for the Hoosiers, the offensive attack is too. Junior attacker Megan Abarta and freshmen attacker Tina and utility Izzy Mandema create that spark for the Hoosiers. This trio has combined for more than 52% of the team's goals this season.

Doherty has had an impressive freshman campaign for the Hoosiers. She has 141 shots on goal in 21 games played. The next closest on the team through 21 games is Mandema with 93. Doherty added 39 goals to her resume whereas Mandema has 27 this season.

Whenever freshman utility Hannah Falls-Hand puts the ball near the net, you can almost expect a goal. She shoots the ball at a team-high 41.9%. She scored 18 goals in her first season.

On the defensive side of the ball, both Doherty and Mandema pull a lot of the load as well. Between the two teammates, they combined for 52 exclusions, 90 defensive exclusions and 54 steals. 

Junior driver and team captain Emily Powell adds her three years of experience on the defensive end with 24 steals and 15 exclusions this season.

If this young IU roster can pull off a major upset against USC, the team wouldn't only get its first conference win of the season, they would advance to the semifinal round and play either No. 3-seeded UCLA or No. 6-seeded Arizona State University on Saturday afternoon.

IU will be in Stanford, California, at the 2019 MPSF conference championship tournament at 2 p.m. Friday to face off against USC for a chance to advance.

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