Sept. 14, 2016
USC carries a 5-0 record into this week’s conference clash at Stanford, while head coach Jovan Vavic carries 499 career wins on the men’s side at USC into the MPSF matchup. The Trojans can keep their undefeated 2016 record intact while netting Vavic his 500th men’s victory if they are able to beat their hosts on Saturday. The No. 2 Trojans (5-0, 0-0 MPSF) square off against No. 5 Stanford (5-0, 0-0 MPSF) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 13) at Avery Aquatic Center in Palo Alto. The game will be televised live on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Bay Area with Greg Mescall and Kevin Danna on the call.
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THE LAST MEETING
November 20, 2015
Uytengsu Aquatics Center
USC Stymies Stanford In OT Again to Reach MPSF Semifinals
The No. 4 seeded USC men's water polo team needed overtime again in order to finalize a vital quarterfinal win over No. 5 seed Stanford in today's MPSF Tournament matchup. Four goals from Grant Stein very nearly did the trick for the Trojans, as the sophomore came up huge with a goal in the first three frames and then the winner in overtime to punch up a 7-6 victory over the Cardinal. The win pushes USC into the MPSF semifinals tomorrow (Nov. 21) at 2:30 p.m. against top-seeded rival UCLA at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
USC opened the 2016 season in the same place it left off last season, holding strong at No. 2 in the nation after making 11 straight trips to the NCAA final and having claimed seven national championships during that run. The Trojans remain tabbed as the No. 2 team in the land in this week’s rankings for the third straight week.
USC unleashed a dominating effort last weekend in outscoring opponents 67-7 while pulling together three more wins. In the Trojans’ home opener, USC topped No. 6 UC Santa Barbara 14-3 with goalie McQuin Baron collecting 16 saves on the defensive end. Offensively, Matteo Morelli and Lachlan Edwards led the way with three goals apiece while the USC defense shut out the Gauchos in the first and third periods of play. The next day, USC hit the road to La Verne for a couple games at the Inland Empire Classic. There, USC opened up with a 27-3 win over Whittier with 14 different Trojans getting in on the scoring action. Later, USC punched up a 26-1 win over host La Verne with 12 Trojans on the scoreboard in that one, including four new contributors on the offensive end. The Trojans have now allowed no more than three goals in any game this season after holding Whittier to three and La Verne to just a single goal. Credit Baron for the second-half shutout against the Poets as the junior collected five saves in his complete-game effort that ended up as a 27-3 Trojan victory. In the afternoon game, USC freshman Will Rubschlager checked into the cage for his first action as a Trojan and made eight saves while giving up just one goal to the Lions in the first half. Redshirt freshman Simon Wu stepped in for the second half and didn’t allow any goals through to keep USC in full control of that eventual 26-1 win. But there was more than dominating defense work on display for the Trojans today. In USC’s opening victory over Whittier, Nick Bell and Lachlan Edwards each collected four goals to lead the USC offense. Blake Edwards and Morelli notched a hat trick apiece, and 10 other Trojans also got to the back of the net. That included the first goal of the season for USC’s Tim Leong and Brock Hudnut, who both broke through in the final frame of that one. Junior Lazar Pasuljevic also notched his first goal of the year in the win. True freshman Matt Maier, meanwhile, tallied his first career goals as a Trojan with a two-goal outing against the Poets. Against host La Verne, redshirt freshman Daniel Leong set a career high for himself with a team-high five goals scored for the Trojan cause. He was one of six Trojans to score multiple goals in the game, with the Edwards brothers tallying four apiece to help power up the USC attack. Freshman Marin Dasic registered his first hat trick as a Trojan in the win, while juniors Morelli and Grant Stein plugged in two goals each.
The No. 5 Cardinal are 5-0 after beating UC Irvine 10-5 last week in nonconference play. Stanford is led in scoring by Blake Parrish and Cody Smith with 13 and 12 goals apiece, respectively. Sophomore goalie Oliver Lewis is averaging 10.3 saves and 4.3 goals against per game in his three appearances to date. USC is 62-60 all-time against Stanford with wins in the last three meetings. Last season, USC went 3-1 against the Cardinal, falling 6-5 in the NorCal Invitational semifinals in Palo Alto before stringing up wins the rest of the way. USC beat Stanford 12-8 in overtime in the teams’ MPSF matchup at USC, then won 9-6 in the SoCal Tournament semifinals and finally grabbed a crucial 7-6 win in overtime in the first round of the 2015 MPSF Tournament.
VAVIC NEARS 500
USC head coach Jovan Vavic is closing in fast on his 500th career victory at the helm of the USC men’s program. The Trojans’ 5-0 start to the 2016 season now has Vavic gripping 499 career wins. If USC stays in winning mode through this early stretch of the season, the Trojans could capture number 500 for Vavic on Sept. 17 at Stanford. Coincidentally, Vavic’s 500th career win as the USC women’s head coach came last season in a win over Stanford — a 7-6 victory in the semifinals of the 2016 UCI Invitational.
BY THE NUMBERS
Just five games into 2016, the Trojans are pinning up some powerful numbers. Led by 13 goals from junior Matteo Morelli and 12 from fellow junior Lachlan Edwards, the USC offense has clicked off 97 goals to date. Defensively, the Trojans have allowed no more than three goals in any game, while shutting out opponents in 11 periods, including second-half shutouts against Whittier and La Verne. In all, USC has outscored opponents 97-13. Goalie McQuin Baron has capped up in the cage in four of those wins and is averaging 8.9 saves and just 2.6 goals-against per game. USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in offense (19.4 gpg) and in defense (2.6 gapg).
For this 2016 season, USC welcomes back every one of its eight All-Americans, and only one of them — Nick Bell — is a senior. That means firepower, experience and daunting skill is available at every turn for the Trojans. In all, USC returns its top six scorers from 2015, including All-American honorees Blake Edwards, Grant Stein, Lachlan Edwards, Matteo Morelli and Bell, while defensive dangers Mihajlo Milicevic and James Walters and newly inked Olympian McQuin Baron also bring back their All-American talent to Troy for 2016. That crew of returning All-Americans accounted for 64 percent of USC’s offensive output. Top scorer Blake Edwards scored 68 goals all on his own, tallying the sixth most single-season goals scored by a Trojan.
For the first time since 1958, USC has a roster studded with two returning Olympians. Junior McQuin Baron and freshman Thomas Dunstan both earned themselves trips to Rio de Janeiro last month as members of the United States Olympic Team. At those 2016 Games, Baron and Dunstan got to rub elbows with two Trojan greats — USC’s all-time top scorer Kostas Genidounias capped up for Greece, while USC’s all-time leader in saves Joel Dennerley was between the pipes once again for Australia.
In his first season at Troy, Blake Edwards was USC’s top scorer. Now in his second season as a Trojan, he is a member of a ridiculously talented junior class. Fellow All-Americans Grant Stein, Matteo Morelli, James Walters, Mihajlo Milicevic and Lachlan Edwards are all now juniors, as are savvy scorers Bryce Hoerman and Lazar Pasuljevic. In fact, USC’s top four scorers in 2015 are all also classmates: the Edwards brothers, Stein and Morelli.
USC’s youth movement remains solid. In their first season of work as Trojans, Chase Koplow and Zach D’Sa combined for 32 goals last year, and both were members of USC’s 2015 NCAA Tournament roster. That vital early experience should pay dividends for the Trojans, who have all but two members of that tournament roster back on active duty for 2016. USC’s seasoned veterans will be bolstered by a group of talented new Trojans. Clearly, 2016 Olympian Thomas Dunstan already brings in some serious credentials for his freshman campaign, but there are several other USC newcomers tabbed for duty in 2016 along with a few Trojans who redshirted last season. True freshmen Marin Dasic and Matt Maier will also factor into the USC gameplan, while redshirt freshmen Sam Slobodien and Daniel Leong join the field along with goalie Simon Wu, who will back up Baron in the cage along with freshman Will Rubschlager. Even more reliable talent in the Trojan pool comes in the form of redshirt junior Mitch Embrey, redshirt sophomores Tim Leong, Brock Hudnut and Murphy Slater, and redshirt freshman Daniel Leong, who round out the USC active roster for 2016.
The Trojan roster boasts a lot of brotherly love this season. Two sets of brothers are in the mix, with four other brothers following in the footsteps of Trojan siblings. The Edwards brothers -(Blake & Lachlan) could be considered the bash brothers of the bunch, having combined for 85 goals to date. The Leong brothers (Tim and Daniel) also combine forces on the 2016 roster this year as a redshirt sophomore and freshman, respectively Four more Trojans are capped up for USC just as their older siblings have done. James Walters (brother Jon), Grant Stein (sister Michelle), Nick Silvers (sister Chelsea and brother Andrew) and Murphy Slater (sister Melanie) have all followed their family trees to Troy.
The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has a new look this season, as six teams departed the conference to start their own new league. Now, the MPSF men’s water polo field is a five-team group that includes veterans Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC and welcomes newcomer Penn State Behrend for the 2016 season. PSB will see its first official action against its MPSF-mates at the conference championship tournament in Westwood Nov. 18-20.
USC rolled up another impressive run to the NCAA final in 2015 — the Trojans’ 11th consecutive trip to the title match — and finished up the season with a 22-7 overall record. USC posted a 6-3 record in MPSF play to snag the No. 4 seed into the conference tournament, where the Trojans were under pressure to perform in order to continue its NCAA tournament streak. A tense 7-6 overtime win over Stanford in the opening round was the first key. And after a loss to top-seeded UCLA in the semifinals, USC faced a must-win third-place matchup against No. 2 seeded Pacific. The Trojans were all business in that one, topping the Tigers decisively 8-4. That was crucial in earning USC a place in the NCAA tournament, scoring a place in the play-in game, which the Trojans won handily. USC followed that with a solid 9-6 win over Cal in the NCAA semis to earn a championship rematch with UCLA. The host Bruins were able to hold off the Trojans in that one with a 10-7 decision in the title match. USC would go on to place a whopping eight Trojans on the All-America list — all of whom return for this 2016 campaign. Blake Edwards picked up first team honors in his first season as a Trojan, scoring 68 goals to lead USC on the scoresheet in 2015. In all, the USC offense — with 21 different scorers — averaged 13.8 goals per game. while the defense allowed 6.2 goals against per game. By the close of the year, USC had outscored opponents 400-179.
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 continues to play with Jon in their hearts. 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 now a junior at USC, coming off two seasons in which the younger Walters earn All-American Honorable Mention. •