Vavic Hits Six For No. 1 USC In SoCal Tournament Championship Win
Sept. 30, 2012
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. - The No. 1 USC men's water polo team honed in on its ninth SoCal Tournament championship in the past decade thanks to a bombshell dropped on host UC Santa Barbara today in the title match, sparked by a career-high six goals from Nikola Vavic. The Trojans brought the No. 6 Gauchos back down to earth after UCSB's upset of No. 2 UCLA in the semifinals by serving up a 14-5 win to take the tourney crown. USC keeps its 2012 slate clean with the win to hold a 14-0 overall record on the year.
With his new career-high six goals in the game, Nikola Vavic became just the third Trojan since 2001 to score six in a single game. Daniel Lontay did it vs. Cal in 2001 and, Peter Kurzeka hit six vs. Cal Baptist last year. What's more, Vavic catapults up the USC all-time scoring charts to now sit No. 14 all-time with 133 career goals. He had entered the tournament ranked No. 20 before going big in totaling 14 goals in the four games this weekend, including nine today across the semifinal and final.
Vavic set the tone right out of the gates as the junior rifled in a hat trick before the Gauchos could even get on the board. The 3-1 lead care of Vavic was bumped to 4-1 on a score from Zach Lucas, and although UCSB would again cut it to two at 4-2, the Trojans found a quick response. Goalie James Clark put a stop to a Gaucho 6-on-5, and USC went the other way, rattling off three straight scores. Kostas Genidounias lit the fuse to go up 5-2, and Vavic hammered home his fourth soon after. Genidounias again hit the back of the net, and the Trojans were holding a hefty 7-2 advantage early in the second.
UCSB snapped the streak with a score, only to see another Trojan tear with a goal from Connor Virjee followed by a searing bar-in blast from Genidounias to heap a 9-3 Trojan lead on their hosts by halftime.
Much to the Gauchos' dismay, Vavic was far from done on the scoring front in the second half. He opened the third period with a 6-on-5 finish to match his career high of five goals and take the Trojans ahead 10-3. And while Clark continued to rack up save after save for the Trojan defense, Vavic would go ahead and make it a career day overall, picking up his sixth to give USC an 11-3 advantage going into the final frame.
After a scoreless third, UCSB stopped a 4-0 scoring run by the Trojans with a power play goal, as Ely Bonilla took over the cage for Clark in the fourth. Rex Butler would get in on the scoring action next for USC, however, joining Vavic and Virjee as successful left-handed Trojan scorers. Up 12-4 on Butler's blast, USC saw Andrew Reego and Russell Renteria strike, too, before the Gauchos got one to go to make it 14-5.
The tournament title is a healthy boost for the Trojans, who now hit the road for an MPSF clash with fellow conference power Stanford next week. USC will face the Cardinal in a 9 a.m. game on Saturday (Oct. 6) at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center in USC's Pac-12 Networks television debut.