No. 3 Trojans Take Fourth Place At Kap7 NorCal Classic|
Sept. 21, 2014
STOCKTON, CALIF. -- The No. 3 USC men's water polo team saw its undefeated start to the 2014 campaign hit a snag today at the Kap7 NorCal Classic, as the Trojans misfired in losses to No. 2 UCLA and No. 4 California. In a tug-of-war semifinal matchup against the Bruins, UCLA heated up late and made the push to a 9-7 victory. That sent USC to the third-place game against the No. 4 Golden Bears, who were ready and waiting for the Trojans. Cal made a third-quarter surge to a five-goal lead, and although USC gathered itself for a fourth-frame comeback attempt, the Trojans fell short in their bid and took an 11-10 loss. USC goes to 10-2 overall after the fourth-place finish at the tournament in Stockton.
It's the first back-to-back losses for the Trojans since 2011, when USC stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the SoCal Tournament. The Trojans would regroup, however, avenging both those losses and powering on to win a fourth consecutive national championship. The loss to Cal snaps a six-game win streak against the Golden Bears, who last beat the Trojans in 2010 during MPSF play -- a 12-9 decision in Cal's favor.
In the semifinal showdown against UCLA, a counterattack finish and a 5-meter penalty shot rang up an early 2-0 lead for the Bruins in the semifinal showdown before Grant Stein got USC on the board with a slick crosscage lob to make it 2-1. UCLA would get a 6-on-5 chance to go bar-in next, lifting the Bruins back up by two, but USC had a swift answer. James Walters plopped a pass into set for Marc Vonderweidt, who wheeled in a ripper to cut the deficit down to one again, with USC down 3-2 before the first frame came to a close.
UCLA got an early jump on the second period of play with a blast on its first possession, only to see Bryce Hoerman rocket an answer at the other end as the tug-of-war continued as the score went to a 4-3 UCLA advantage. Both teams would misfire on their next power play opportunities, with the Trojan defense squelching the Bruins' advantage with an interception at the post. USC would come up with the equalizer finally on another sizzling score out of two-meters. Kostas Genidounias set the table for Lachlan Edwards for this one, and Edwards made no mistake with a blazing backhand that rattled around the back of the cage, locking the game up 4-4. A minute later, Genidounias opted for the solo shot. He'd send a laser from distance to make it a three-goal surge for the Trojans in taking a 5-4 lead on the Bruins by halftime.
McQuin Bron came up with a huge stop on a Bruin 2-meter attack to send the ball the other direction early in the third. No goals would come at the other end for the Trojans for a stretch, but the Trojan defense was standing tall. USC put a stop to another UCLA 6-on-5 later, but the Bruins would get lucky on a possession down the line, gathering in a rebound and lofting in a lob to pull things even again, knotted at 5-5. Genidounias wasted no time taking the Trojans back into the lead. Hot off the foul, Genidounias rocketed in the go-ahead to get USC a 6-5 advantage period of play. The Bruins would be awarded a power play in the final minute of the third, however, finishing it off to snarl the game up at 6-6 with 30 ticks left in the frame, and that's where it would end for the fourth.
Baron would open up the Trojan defensive stand in the fourth with back-to-back saves, prompting the USC offense to step up as well. A clinical USC 6-on-5 finish would grab back the lead for the Trojans. Surgical passing around the horn wound up with Genidounias finding Mac Carden on the post for the go-ahead slam to make it 7-6 Trojans. But the Bruins would earn a power play of their own next, finishing that one off, too, as the game leveled again at 7-7. A minute later, UCLA would score on a slider to take the Bruins' first lead since the second period of play, and the Bruins would go on to add to it, jumping ahead 9-7 on the Trojans with 2:45 remaining in regulation. USC struggled to take back control as the clock continued to drain down, with offensive sets sputtering out. By the final buzzer, UCLA's 9-7 lead remained intact, vaulting the Bruins in the championship match while USC was sent to the third-place game.
The loss seemed to take some wind out of the Trojans' sails, as USC spotted the Bears two early goals in the third-place matchup. Lachlan Edwards got USC on the board with a 6-on-5 strike, and USC would cut the deficit down to one again by the end of the first when Genidounias lit the lamp to make it 3-2. Things heated up in the second frame, but Cal caught fire first, building a 5-2 lead and later jumping to a four-goal margin when a 5-meter penalty shot made it 7-3 Cal. Rex Butler and Genidounas would strike back before halftime to bring USC within two, as the Trojans trailed 7-5 at the break.
Nothing was going for the Trojans in the third. USC was silenced in the frame, while Cal manufactured four goals of their own to take a daunting 11-5 advantage. Genidounias took matters into his own hands in the fourth, drumming up four more goals to finish with a career-high seven on the day, but it wasn't enough. He'd plug in four, and Matteo Morelli added one, while USC's defense also did its job in shutting out the Bears, but that deficit proved too great for the time allowed. Genidounias' seventh of the game got USC within one, down 11-10 with 40 seconds left, but the Trojans' final shot attempt from distance to equalize was off the mark, and Cal emerged victorious over USC for the first time since 2010. With 14 goals scored at the tournament, senior Genidounias is now two goals away from the No. 2 all-time scoring spot. He now has 218 in his career to date. No. 2 Juraj Zatovic scored 220, and No. 1 Nikola Vavic has the top tally with 254.
The road warriors now return to Southern California, but the Trojans have another game away from home to content with. USC will pay a visit to Pepperdine on Saturday (Sept. 27) at 1 p.m. in Malibu for a shot at righting the ship for another push toward another NCAA title.
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 9, Danner (UCLA) 13.
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 8, Sibley (CAL) 10.