Defending national champion Southern Cal sets off in hot pursuit of a fourth national title this week when the Women of Troy splash down in Ann Arbor, Mich., for competition at the 2011 NCAA Championships. The No. 4 seed in the eight-team field, USC is making its eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Trojans open up against No. 5 seed UC Irvine on Friday.

Including last year's run to the NCAA crown, USC has won three national championships in program history, with the first coming in 1999 before the NCAA sponsored women's water polo. In 2004, the Trojans posted the first-ever undefeated season on the way to capturing the 2004 NCAA title. In 2010, USC had five All-American seniors cap off their Trojan careers as national champions. USC finished third in 2005 and 2007 and placed second in 2006, 2008 and 2009. This year marks USC's eighth consecutive NCAA appearance and seventh overall, as the Trojans hold a 15-5 all-time record in NCAA tournament play. In all, USC has reached five title matches in its previous seven tournament appearances. In the past eight years, it has been either UCLA or USC that has claimed the national championship.

Bracket Breakdown

•  This year's NCAA championship field of eight marks the first appearance of a team out of the Big West Conference. The conference tournament champions California (MPSF), UC San Diego (WWPA), Indiana (CWPA) and UC Irvine (Big West) are joined by three at-large teams -- USC, UCLA and Stanford out of the MPSF -- as well as the winner of a play-in match between the tournament champs from the SCIAC and the MAAC -- Redlands and Iona, respectively.This year's seedings stand as No. 1 Stanford (25-1), No. 2 Cal (24-4), No. 3 UCLA (24-6), No. 4 USC (18-6), No. 5 UC Irvine (21-8), No. 6 Indiana (25-11) and No. 7 UC San Diego (17-18). The No. 8 seed was determined by the play-in game between Redlands and Iona, with Iona winning to clinch the trip to Michigan and take the No. 8 seed with a 26-7 overall record.