No. 1 USC Shoves Into Striking Distance Of Sixth Straight NCAA Title|
Dec. 7, 2013
PALO ALTO, CALIF. -- The USC men's water polo team will contend for a historic sixth consecutive national championship thanks to today's strong 10-3 win over St. Francis Brooklyn in the semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Championships, held at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. The top-seeded Trojans made an early statement of intent by plugging in the first three goals of the game against the No. 5 seeded Terriers, and stayed powerfully in form down the stretch to victory. Now 27-4 overall, USC will face No. 2 seed Pacific in tomorrow's 3 p.m. title match.
USC seniors Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie rifled in two goals apiece while senior goalie James Clark put up a wall in the cage, collecting 13 saves to anchor a stingy Trojans team defense. USC was throwing up field blocks and clamping down on the Terriers, who managed just three goals in the match and were shut out completely in the second period of play. By halftime, the Trojans had built a 4-1 advantage with Vavic's pair of goals and strikes from Davie and Kostas Genidounias. In the third, the Trojans flexed even more muscle. USC rifled in four goals out of the gates in the second half of play, sparked by an impressive Davie stretch and score from the post off a feed from Vavic.
Up 5-1 on the Terriers, USC kept pushing, determined to officially punch its ticket to the Trojans' ninth consecutive NCAA final. Vavic again supplied a sharp assists, hitting Jon Walters, who went skyward and finished off a 6-on-5 strike from the post to make it 6-1 Trojans. A Marc Vonderweidt steal set up Rex Butler for a one-on-one opportunity against the St. Francis Brooklyn goalie. Butler pumped in the score with 6:02 on the clock, and USC enjoyed a 7-1 lead. Clark would come up with a power play save for the Trojans next, and USC converted again at the other end, with Walters sweeping in another nice score from two-meters to make it a four-goal scoring spurt for USC and an 8-1 advantage. St. Francis Brooklyn would get a close-range lob to sneak over a charging Clark to snap over 16 minutes of scoring silence by the Terriers.
USC carried an 8-2 lead into the final frame, with just eight minutes of action standing between the Trojans and their ticket to the title match. Butler notched his second of the day with a sizzling sidearm blast to make it 9-2 USC. Clark would give way to Aleck Ryner in the cage for the final 4:25 of the game, and although the Terriers snuck one through, Ryner would pin up three saves during his stand in goal while the defense in front of him added several more field blocks to further the Trojans' defensive efforts. With 2:54 remaining, Mac Carden set up Ivan Kustic in front of the cage. Kustic slyly faked and then hammered home the goal, giving USC a 10-3 lead that would stand through to the final horn.
The day's work saw Nikola Vavic and Kostas Genidounias pull even with each other at 77 goals apiece this season -- the fourth most single-season goals in program history. Vavic already stands as USC's all-time career scoring leader, now holding 250 goals, while Genidounias moved within three of the No. 4 all-time slot as the junior holds 176. Senior Jeremy Davie also improved his all-time standing with his two-goal outing today, now up to No. 17 all-time with 128 career goals.
The Trojans and head coach Jovan Vavic are now eagerly awaiting the chance to make collegiate water polo history, as the Trojans are looking to win an unprecedented sixth straight national championship when they splash down at Avery Aquatic Center tomorrow (Dec. 8) for the title match at 3 p.m.
2013 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Palo Alto, Calif.)
SEMIFINALS - Dec. 7