After playing just one of their first 15 matches this season at home, the Rainbow Wahine water polo team will play their next seven at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex, starting with a meeting with No. 3 USC on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
UH enters the homestand at 10-5 overall and moved up a spot to seventh in this week’s Collegiate Water Polo Association poll after a 3-0 California road trip.
After losing to Cal State Northridge on a buzzer-beating goal on March 7 in their lone home match this season, the Rainbow Wahine pulled out a 10-9 win in double overtime at UC Davis last Saturday on two late goals by sophomore Claire Nixon, the subject of Thursday’s Warrior World feature.
Nixon sat out most of the match after picking up two early fouls, but her last-minute goals earned her Big West Player of the Week honors on Wednesday.
Nixon ranks third on the team with 19 goals, trailing sophomore Chloe Barr’s 30 goals and junior Paula Chillida Esforzado’s 20. Six UH players have double-digit goal totals so far and the team’s balance is one of coach Maureen Cole’s objectives.
“It’s always harder to defend a team where you don’t know where the offense is coming from,” Cole said. “If you press us, we’ll go to our 2-meter player. If you drop and zone on us, we can shoot from the outside. I think we’re really balanced in that way.
“In the past it’s been maybe we’ll turn to so and so. But I think everyone now is stepping up and realizes, ‘it can be me in this moment,’ like Claire against UC Davis. It wasn’t her the whole game but in the last minute and 10 seconds she pulled through.”
USC returns to DKAC on Friday with a 35-3 advantage in the all-time series and has won 14 straight against UH since 2006, including a 14-6 victory last season. UH will also face Pomona on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and takes on the Brazilian National Team at noon on Sunday. The homestand resumes on March 27 with a visit by No. 1 UCLA.
“When you’re playing the top teams in the nation that really gets you going,” Nixon said. “You definitely expect a fight. It definitely makes the game exciting, and that’s what I love about water polo.”
After closing the home stand on April 4 against UC Santa Barbara, UH ends the regular season with three matches in California then returns to Manoa to host the Big West championships April 24-26.