For women’s water polo and the women of Troy, it’s tournament time. On May 8, three-seed USC (22-5) heads up to Palo Alto to face sixth-seeded Hawaii (18-8) in the round of eight.USC is coming of a fourth place finish in the MPSF Tournament, where USC came off of close losses to UCLA and Stanford. This year now USC has lost to UCLA three times and Stanford twice and never beat either team. Nonetheless, the Women of Troy are playing competitively, and according to Senior Jennifer Stiefel they are confident in their gameplan.“Our coaching staff has prepared us well,” Stiefel said. “[We are] not so much typically the underdog but you know what there’s not really pressure on us. We just want to play well. We want to execute our plan and keep it all simple and hopefully win.”Against the Bruins, USC led early 4-2, but the Bruins would surge ahead. The game was tied at 7 with under a minute and a half left but a late Bruin goal and penalty shot sealed a 9-7 Bruin victory. Again in the third place game against Stanford, USC led early and took a 5-4 lead into the locker room, but again ran out of gas at the end. In both games, and in their previous losses against Stanford and UCLA, USC went on cold streaks. Against UCLA, USC allowed four unanswered goals. Against Stanford in the second half, the Women of Troy scored one goal to the Cardinal’s five. Freshman scoring machine, Brianna Daboub recognizes this pattern and is determined to keep her team focused in the NCAA Tournament.“For me, the most important thing is making sure everybody’s focused at all times,” Daboub says. “On those runs a lot of times it’s because we’ve lost focus for a few minutes and bottom line. That just can’t happen. So just making sure that we’re all focused, we’re all on the same page and giving 100% at all times.”Nonetheless, Coach Vavic always finds way to get his teams ready for the NCAA Tournament despite whatever may have happened in the regular season. Three years ago, USC lost three times to UCLA including in the MPSF Tournament but beat the Bruins in the NCAA semifinals, even though they lost in the championship. The year after the women’s team lost on Senior Day to Stanford but beat the Cardinal in a thrilling 10-9 championship game that went to sudden death.This year though, USC has a considerable number of new players, including Daboub who have never experienced an NCAA Tournament. Despite that, the coaching staff is doing their best to keep them calm and confident, as can be seen in Daboub, herself.“I think the biggest thing for us is just always believe in yourself, always go out there, don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” Daboub said. “Everybody makes them. Just go out and do your best and rely on each other. That’s it.”It will no doubt be a hard road to an NCAA championship for the Women of Troy. If they beat Hawaii on Friday, they would most likely play Stanford again, but this time in their own pool since Stanford is hosting the tournament. If they were to beat the Cardinal and advance to the semifinals, USC would most likely face Cal or a red-hot UCLA team that has owned USC of recent, but, as Stiefel says, any time these cross-town rivals meet, it is invariably a challenge.“I think always anything with USC UCLA, that rivalry,” Stiefel said. “I think it’s always big especially in water polo because that’s usually where it comes down. UCLA won on the women’s side five in a row, and they haven’t won since, and then we’ve won two since then— the rivalry is definitely big.”The matchup against Hawaii takes place at 1:45 p.m. PT on Friday. If USC wins, they will play in the semifinal Saturday at 5:15 p.m. PT. The final takes place at 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday.