Paige Hauschild’s Olympic journey has her primed to lead USC women’s water polo once again – Annenberg Media

Redshirt junior driver Paige Hauschild is one of many student-athletes here at USC, but she’s had to take time away from the Trojans the last two years to prepare for an even tougher challenge: the Olympics.

Hauschild first started playing water polo in her hometown of Santa Barbara, which has a big youth water polo program. “I decided to try it out and really fell in love with it,” she said. “I fell in love with just the team aspect… So I ended up sticking with it throughout high school.”

Hauschild made her mark during her high school years, making the varsity water polo team for the first time as a freshman. Not long into her high school career, she started to get approached by colleges and even by coaches from the Olympic Development program.

Eventually she got called up to the senior national team and participated in the 2017 FINA World League Intercontinental Tournament. All of the hard work she was putting it was paying off, and all those around her could not have been more happy for her.

Growing up, Hauschild was shaped into who she is today by her mother, Jenni.

“Growing up, my mom was really competitive, she’s an athletic lady,” Paige said. “She’s very caring and puts so much passion and love into everything she does and everyone she meets, and so that’s something I really hope to emulate.”

Soon, Hauschild began her journey as a Trojan, starting her freshman year off in a position to make a real impact. “[My teammates] made the transition to high school and national team super easy, and they helped a lot with my confidence, being a brand new freshman. And I felt like I just fit right in. ”

Hauschild did a little more than just fit in, as she showed in her freshman year exactly why she was getting national buzz. She led the Trojans in scoring with 68 total goals, a record for a true freshman at USC.

She helped the Trojans win the NCAA Championship that year, and she gained numerous accolades for her performance, including All-America First Team and NCAA All-Tournament First Team honors.

Hauschild came back her sophomore year and picked up right where she left off, scoring another 49 goals on the season, including 18 in the final seven games of the year. She was once again an All-American first team and was also named to the All-MPSF First Team.

With the Olympics on the horizon, however, Hauschild took the opportunity of a lifetime and started to train with the national team in hopes of being called up for the Tokyo roster.

She officially took a leave of absence from the USC to train with the national team as preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Hauschild can still recall the specific moment when all her hard work since she first started playing water polo at 8 years old had paid off.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget standing on the top of the podium listening to the national anthem with some of my best friends and teammates alongside me,” Hauschild said. “That was a moment that I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl.”

Hauschild competed in all seven games in the Olympics as she helped the USA team win its third straight gold medal.

Not many can say they’ve won a gold medal before finishing their junior year of college, but Hauschild can. Hauschild scored six goals in seven games and logged over 70 minutes throughout the Olympic campaign.

Hauschild is very thankful for her journey and realizes how special the achievement is.

“It was definitely a surreal moment,” she said. “I think a lot of athletes dream of being in that position sometime in life, so I was beyond grateful, and it was a really special moment and definitely a dream come true.”

Now, Hauschild is back and competing for the Trojans as the 2022 water polo season is in full swing.

Even with her time on the national team, it was always important to her to be in contact with her USC teammates.

“I made sure to keep in touch with all the USC girls while I was training with the national team,” Hauschild said. “They’re some of my best friends.”

The team has changed quite a bit since the last time she last donned the cardinal and gold, but she has already started the season like nothing has changed.

Hauschild has played in all thirteen games so far and has scored two or more goals in eight of them. She has 27 total goals on the year so far, including a dominant five-goal outing against San Jose State on Feb. 5.

But though in the box score the time off seems to have had no effect on her, the transition back was not always easy.

“When I came back I essentially had to re-learn the system a little bit because I’ve been away for two years,” Hauschild said. “So there are areas where I feel like I can learn and bring some experience, but at the same time, I still am learning a lot from everyone on the team.”

Coming back to the team now as a junior and with a breadth of experience playing water polo at the highest level, Hauschild is now prepared for a leadership role on the team.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot from my Olympic experience and I know there’s a lot I can provide from that as far as playing at a high level internationally,” Hauschild said. “So there’s a lot of experience I can bring there.”

The Trojans are trying to repeat as national champions this season and become the first team to do so since 2014-15 Stanford.

So far, the season has started off well for USC, opening as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and boasting a record of 11-2. They have faced a slew of ranked opponents so far and have fared quite well, even winning their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference match of the year against Cal on February the 19th.

In that game, Hauschild finished with a hat trick in the six-goal drubbing of the Golden Bears. One of their two losses USC has had so far this season was against UCLA, on a game-winning goal by the Bruins with 23 seconds left to play in the match, but the Trojans are determined to bounce back. With 6 regular season games left, the Trojans hope to get themselves ready to come NCAA Tournament time.

Hauschild has the opportunity to shatter the Trojan record books. She’s already top 15 all time in goals scored at USC, and if she continues her stellar play, she could be top 12 by the end of the season.

She is also aiming for her third straight first team All-American nod, as well as a third straight Peter J. Cutino Award nomination, given annually to the best college water polo players in the country.

Even with her absence from the program for two years, Hauschild feels confident in herself and her teammates in getting the job done this season.

“This team feels a lot like it did my freshman year,” she said. “I think we have a really special group. We have a lot of girls who bring a lot of experience, both international and just some high-level water polo players. So I think it’s been really fun. I think we all click really well together. ”

Although there is still a long road ahead to the NCAA Championship, Hauschild and the entire Trojan team are confident they’ll do what it takes to get the honor of lifting the NCAA trophy once again come May.


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