Men's Water Polo
    No. 2 USC Starts Journey Toward Seventh Straight Title This Week
    Senior Kostas Genidounias enters 2014 ranked No. 5 all-time in career scoring at Troy.

    Senior Kostas Genidounias enters 2014 ranked No. 5 all-time in career scoring at Troy.
    Sept. 3, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 2 USC men's water polo team begins the 2014 campaign in the same pool in which it plans to complete the year, traveling to UC San Diego for its first action of the season. What's more, the Trojans also have a rematch of their 2013 national championship on tap for this weekend's competition. Host of the 2014 NCAA Championships in late November, UC San Diego will first play host to this weekend's Triton Invitational, which brings in 16 teams for early-season competition. Defenders of the past six straight national championships, the Trojans will kick things off with four games in San Diego, beginning with a 9:50 a.m. season opener against No. 11 UC Davis on Saturday (Sept. 6). USC will take on La Verne that same afternoon at 1:20 p.m. Then on Sunday (Sept. 7), the Trojans will square off against Redlands at 9:40 a.m., with the weekend's action culminating with a rematch of the 2013 NCAA title game. At 3:10 p.m. in San Diego, USC will clash against No. 5 Pacific in an early tangle against the Tigers, who the Trojans beat in overtime last year to claim the national championship.

    TRITON INVITATIONAL CENTRAL PAGE

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC24
    La Verne3
    September 1, 2012
    Westwood, Calif.
    THE LAST MEETING
    USC28
    UC Davis3
    October 17, 1998
    Palo Alto, Calif. (Northern California Tournament)
    THE LAST MEETING
    USC12  
    Pacific (Championship)11(OT)
    December 8, 2013
    Palo Alto, Calif.
    SIX-PEAT IS COMPLETE!!
    The USC men's water polo team etched its name into a new chapter of the history books today, winning an unprecedented sixth consecutive national championship with a poised and powerful overtime comeback win over Pacific. The Trojans shrugged off a two-goal deficit in the fourth period of play and wound up with senior Nikola Vavic plugging in his fourth goal of the day with the overtime winner. Clutch late defense by the Trojans sealed the deal on a 12-11 win for USC, which notches is ninth NCAA title in program history and the 121st all-time for the university. The Trojans are the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six consecutive crowns, and finish the 2013 season with a 28-4 overall record.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC27
    Redlands4
    September 8, 2013
    La Jolla, Calif.
    No. 1 USC Scores 50 Goals In Two Wins Today
    The top-ranked USC men's water polo team displayed a ferocious offensive onslaught today in two final wins at the Triton Invitational in La Jolla. The Trojans' winning start to 2013 grew to 4-0 with today's victory over No. 13 Air Force and Redlands, as USC amassed 50 goals in the two wins. The Trojans now hold a 35-game win streak that dates back to 2011.

    RANKINGS
    The six-time defending NCAA champion Trojans enters 2014 ranked No. 2 in the nation in the preseason poll.

    THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS
    USC's first three games of the year has the Trojans up against teams that they have never lost to. USC is a perfect 14-0 all-time against UC Davis -- last winning a 16-1 affair in 2001. USC and La Verne have faced just once, back in 2012 when the Trojans posted a 24-3 victory. Against Redlands, USC holds a 6-0 all-time mark after a 27-4 win last season. Game four of 2014 presents somewhat stiffer competition, as USC will tangle with an MPSF rival early in its Sunday clash against Pacific. USC is 45-8 all-time against the Tigers, but Pacific did ring up a rare win over the Trojans last season. Even last year's series, however, swayed in USC's favor. USC went 3-1 against Pacific in 2014, following up a 10-6 loss to the Tigers in Stockton with an 18-13 win for some redemption in the MPSF Tournament, and then making the ultimate statement with that 12-11 overtime win over Pacific to claim the 2013 NCAA Championship.

    CULTURE CLUB
    USC's NCAA championship streak began while this incoming freshman class was still in middle school. So although the 2014 Trojan newcomers haven't experienced winning a national championship firsthand -- yet -- they certainly are familiar with the culture of winning that has been built at Troy. Every other member of the USC roster has at least one national championship ring in his trophy case. The senior class of four Trojans, meanwhile, have played in a combined eight NCAA Tournaments in the past three seasons. Three of those seniors -- Rex Butler, Kostas Genidounias and Marc Vonderweidt -- have experience from USC's 2012 and 2013 title matches. That trio, along with Nick Bell, Mac Carden and Max Hurst-Mendoza all combined forces for USC in last season's championship victory. To be sure, USC's championship savvy is still very much in effect.

    BUILT TO LAST
    Everybody is calling it a "rebuilding year." Everybody, that is, except USC head coach Jovan Vavic. His group of 22 newcomers for 2014 already looks to be built to last. Vavic already has tabbed eight or nine of those freshmen for immediate action. Team USA goalie McQuin Baron has the starting nod in the cage, but he's not the only newcomer with experience in international waters. Four players from four different countries have arrived from overseas to join the Trojans this year. Australian National Teamer Lachlan Edwards is poised to post up for the Trojans, following in the footsteps of another Aussie two-meter man -- All-American Jeremy Davie, who played four years and won four titles as a Trojan. Mihajlo Milicevic comes to Troy from Serbia; Lazar Pasuljevic hails from Montenegro; and Matteo Morelli joins the Trojans from Italy. Vavic is eager to involve each of them in his 2014 game plan. Adding to the depth charge in the new class are a set of solid stars from more local waters. In addition to goalies Baron and Ben Goncharenko, California has produced some mighty field players to bolster the Trojan cause. Bryce Hoerman, Grant Stein and James Walters headline that crew, which offers up some impressive flexibility and skill in which Vavic already has early confidence.

    LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN?
    USC has played in the NCAA championship game 10 times in the past 11 years. Eight national titles have come during that span. But it isn't just a place in another final that USC is aiming for. No, for 2014 the Trojans once again have just one mission. USC has won six consecutive titles, and making it seven in a row would also bring the men's program its 10th national championship.

    TOP GUNS
    Seniors Kostas Genidounias and Rex Butler represent a potent one-two punch for the Trojans. The righty-lefty duo give USC dangerous scoring options from both sides of the pool, and they've been effective in their Trojan careers to date. Genidounias whipped in 79 goals (fourth most in program history) for USC last season as a junior, giving him a career count of 178 to rank him No. 5 all-time entering 2014. Butler scored 41 goals last year, giving him 70 overall as he pursues a spot in the 100-goal club by the close of his Trojan career. That pair stand out as USC's top returning scorers, but Nick Bell, Mac Carden and Marc Vonderweidt have also proven to pack some scoring punch of their own. All three scored 18 goals apiece last season.

    CAGE FIGHTERS
    The only position dominated wholly by freshmen is in the cage-- previously occupied by Olympians Joel Dennerley and James Clark for the past six seasons. And yet Vavic is as confident in his goalies as anywhere else. McQuin Baron looms large as the starter, bringing in his 6-foot-9-inch frame fresh from a summer of experience with the U.S National Team. The Trojans could well tag-team the cage, too, as the goalie corps is solid down the line. Ben Goncharenko and Steven Michaud are both standout goalies in their own right and stand to see time in the cage as well.

    FIGHTING ON FOR JON
    On Jan. 8, 2014, the Trojan Family lost a special member in the passing of USC freshman Jon Walters. At 19 years old, Walters was an NCAA Champion, beloved teammate and a Trojan warrior for the USC men's water polo team. His loss has touched the Trojan Family and the water polo world deeply, and the USC water polo program will be playing with Jon in their hearts this season and beyond. As a first-year freshman 2-meter man, Jon Walters was a key contributor on USC's 2013 NCAA championship men's water polo team that won a sixth consecutive NCAA title in December. He scored 17 goals on the year, including two in the NCAA semifinal game and another two in the MPSF championship game, despite missing the middle part of the season with an elbow injury. A native of Newport Beach, he attended Mater Dei High School, where he was an All-American and the 2012 CIF Player of the Year. Jon's younger brother James is a freshman on this 2014 USC team.

    2013 RECAP
    USC became the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six consecutive national championships when the Trojans finished off their 2013 campaign with five straight wins, claiming the MPSF Championship before making a victorious run to win the 2013 NCAA Championship. An overtime win over Pacific in the title match notched a 28-4 overall record for the Trojans while grabbing the program's ninth national crown. Senior Nikola Vavic finished his career as USC's all-time leading scorer, was named National Player of the Year and was again a finalist for the Cutino Award. Kostas Genidounias, too, was named a Cutino Award finalist, and was one of six All-Americans from the 2013 season along with Vavic, James Clark, Jeremy Davie, Mace Rapsey and Connor Virjee. In all, the Trojan offense -- charged by 21 different scorers -- averaged 15.3 goals per game, while the defense allowed 6.7 goals against per game. USC outscored opponents 490-213 in 2013, marking the most goals scored in a year by the Trojans since at least 1983. •