No. 3 Trojans Step Into NorCal Semis|
Sept. 20, 2014
STOCKTON, CALIF. -- The No. 3 USC men's water polo team plunged into the Kap7 NorCal Classic semifinals with a pair of solid wins during today's group play in Stockton, Calif. The Trojans took out No. 19 Air Force 20-7 before fending off No. 7 UC Santa Barbara for a 12-7 victory. USC will take its undefeated 10-0 record into tomorrow's semifinals, where the Trojans will clash with crosstown rival UCLA at noon to fight for the right to a spot in the evening's title match at Pacific's Chris Kjelsden Aquatics Complex. In the other semifinal bout tomorrow, No. 1 Stanford will face No. 4 Cal.
Up against Air Force for the second straight game, the Trojans were ready for the Falcons in their tournament opener today. Consistent offense by the Trojans saw USC tack up five goals in every period, starting with a 5-0 shutout of Air Force in the first frame. A 5-meter penalty shot rung up by Marc Vonderweidt made it 6-0 to start the second period before Air Force got on the board at the other end. The Falcons would find their scoring touch in that segment, rattling in four goals against the USC defense to make it a 10-4 score by halftime. USC would clamp down in the third, however. The Trojans tallied five straight goals from the hands of four different Trojans to put the Falcons out of reach. Kostas Genidounias, James Walters, Rex Butler and Matteo Morelli each found the back of the net -- Morelli doing so twice -- before Air Force gathered in a goal of its own to make it 15-5 entering the final frame. The Trojans kept rolling in the fourth, with three new scorers getting in on the action as Grant Stein and Charlie McBee struck two apiece and Luke Felton added one to help wrap up the 20-7 final for the Trojan cause. McQuin Baron and Ben Goncharenko split time in the cage with two quarters of work each. On the scoring front, Rex Butler led the way with four goals in the win, joined by six other Trojans with multiple-goal games in a total of 10 different USC scorers in the win.
The win pulled USC into a late-afternoon matchup against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara. The Trojans would score the first three goals of the game, but the Gauchos wouldn't let them off that easily. UCSB reeled USC back in to within a single goal as things closed to a 6-5 score during the third frame. Back-to-back strikes from Morelli and Genidounias would pad things back out in the Trojans' favor. Even when UCSB pulled the score to 8-6, Butler delivered a searing blast to the back of the cage for a 9-6 lead that wrapped up the third period of play. The Gauchos would get just one more goal to go in the final frame, while the Trojans powered up with three more up to punch its ticket to the semifinals with a 12-7 final. There were power plays aplenty on both ends of the pool. They didn't all go USC's way, but the Trojans were able to finish off one last opportunity -- converted with authority by James Walters -- while notching one last block from goalie McQuin Baron at the other end to wrap up the 12-7 decision. Baron would finish his reign in the cage with 15 blocks, while Genidiounias paced the Trojan offense with a hat trick, accompanied by a pair of goals apiece from Butler and Walters.
Tomorrow's battle against the Bruins marks USC's first look at rival UCLA since taking a 10-9 overtime loss in Westwood last season. That loss would spark a winning surge for the Trojans, however, who followed up that defeat by going on to claim the 2013 MPSF Tournament title and then a sixth consecutive NCAA championship. USC faces UCLA tomorrow (Sept. 21) at 12 p.m. in Stockton. The Kap7 NorCal Classic title match will be held at 5:20 p.m., preceded by the 4 p.m. third-place game.
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 15, Lenihan (UCSB) 8, Whitelegge (UCSB) 5.