Water polo is a sport I had never watched until last August. Lacrosse is something I had never seen in person until March. These two teams are currently dominating the nation. USC’s women’s water polo and women’s lacrosse team are a combined 35-0 this year.Despite their success, these sports are flying under the radar. Their success comes during a school year in which the football team had another tumultuous year that ended with mixed emotions — the hiring of head coach Clay Helton to go along with a great victory over UCLA that won the Pac-12 South for the Trojans before falling in the championship game to an underrated Stanford team and a season-ending loss in the Holiday Bowl.USC basketball was relevant for the first time in ages, winning 21 games, beating UCLA three times and earning a spot to the NCAA tournament where they lost in the first round.Those will be the storylines from this year that will be remembered even though there are other athletes who are equally deserving of attention and praise, if not more so given their record of success.Fans should be watching these teams compete. I am one of the fans to blame as well. As previously mentioned, I hadn’t watched either sport until this year, but I can assure you, even someone who knows nothing of either sport will be entertained.The competitive spirit and drive to greatness of these athletes is something to behold, and to have two programs dominating the competition at the same time is incredible.Women’s water polo is No. 1 in the country and has been for several weeks. Women’s lacrosse has been steadily climbing up the rankings and has now broken into the top five.The sports should be celebrated regardless of the outcome of the rest of their season as we celebrated a football and basketball team who had less dominating regular seasons and subpar postseasons. The lacrosse and water polo teams have the opportunity to do something special and cap potentially undefeated seasons with conference and national titles.Should the water polo team put themselves in a position to end an undefeated season with a national championship, it would be the fourth for the team under the guidance of head coach Jovan Vavic who has also led the men’s team to nine national titles. Entering this season, the water polo team has played in the NCAA tournament 12 straight seasons and finished in third for the second straight year. Prior to that in 2013, the Women of Troy won it all.The success of this program is well documented and should not come as a surprise to anyone, but this season has the potential to be one for the record books should the team finish their regular season on Friday without losing a game all year. The team is currently 20-0 and a win against Cal on Friday would put them at 21 wins — the same number as the men’s basketball team put up. The NCAA tournament is approaching soon after in May.For the lacrosse team — a program in just its fourth year since its inception — the road to success is much shorter. After making their first NCAA tournament appearance last year and losing to perennial powerhouse Duke, the Women of Troy came back with a vengeance this season that has included avenging their previous loss to the Blue Devils.As the Women of Troy have blazed through MPSF play, consistently putting up double-digit scores, critics could have said that the competition was below them and they should have been beating these teams. The Trojans 14th and 15th wins of the year came recently against the No. 12 and No. 6 team in the country.The lacrosse team has similarly not dropped a game this season and is poised to have a legitimate shot at taking home a national title.The harsh reality of the situation is however, if these teams fail to win it all, their masterful seasons will most likely be forgotten. Even if they do win the national title, there won’t be nearly the celebration that would have occurred had the football or basketball team gotten just as close.Part of the reason is the school calendar in saying that the tournaments for lacrosse and water polo are just not as convenient for students to keep up with as March Madness or the College Football Playoff, and while that is certainly true to an extent, the fact of the matter is that the sports are just not as popular.While they deserve credit and accolades to be poured upon them, there isn’t the same buzz surrounding these programs as there should be. It remains to be seen what the final storyline will be for these programs, but surely a dedicated slice of students will be paying attention regardless of what happens.As Trojans, aren’t we all in the pursuit of perfection? We should be celebrating the athletes that have come the closest to achieving it.Hailey Tucker is a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Tucker Talks,” runs every other Wednesday.
Katie Chin | Daily TrojanThe USC football team returned to Howard Jones Field on Wednesday for their second practice since the start of the school year. Team roles began to become more defined as the team approaches its opening matchup against Western Michigan next Saturday — and the practice also featured a special guest.Freshmen Take the StageThe Trojan freshmen have been at the height of media interest this week, not only for their contributions to practice, but also because this is the first week they’ve been available for interviews.Freshman defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu thanked the upperclassmen for helping ease his transition to college ball.“They’re all helping out the young guys,” he said, naming in particular redshirt senior Kenny Bigelow Jr. and senior Josh Fatu. Along with his work as a mentor, Fatu is also standing out on the practice field as well, taking most of the first-team reps at nose tackle.Freshman defensive lineman Jay Tufele praised Talamaivao, redshirt junior Toa Lobendahn and redshirt junior Chris Brown. “They’re amazing athletes, and going against them is like going against the best in the world,” Tufele said.Though not technically a first-year player, redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns was raring to finally make his Trojan debut after spending 2016 confined to the practice field.“I have a fire in me,” Vaughns said, before adding that he would “hopefully be starting” against Western Michigan.Making Dreams Come TrueTaylor Hammond, a 10-year-old who has been battling leukemia for four years, made an appearance at Wednesday’s practice as one of the wishes on his “life list.”Taylor got to take part in a drill with the Trojans: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold threw him a pass, which Taylor ran to the end zone with defenders chasing after him, falling to the ground one by one in his wake.Taylor’s father, Brian Hammond, was also in attendance and was passing out bracelets to players, fans and reporters, encouraging everyone to keep children like Taylor in their thoughts when they wear the bracelets. Taylor, his father and his brother were able to pose for the media to complete his true celebrity experience.“[Taylor] is the definition of ‘Fight On,’” head coach Clay Helton said.Injury UpdateThis week USC football continues its rigorous practice schedule leading up to their home opener against Western Michigan next Saturday. Notable absences included freshman offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and senior guard Viane Talamaivao, as they remained sidelined with hamstring and foot injuries, respectively.Redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe remained limited in his involvement with a hip flexor injury that has had him playing tentatively for a couple of weeks. Helton has admitted he wants to proceed with caution to prevent the injury from getting any worse.