Men's Water Polo
    No. 1 USC Clashes With No. 4 Cal On ESPNU
    The Trojans defend their home pool against Cal on Sunday at 1 p.m.
    The Trojans defend their home pool against Cal on Sunday at 1 p.m.

    Sept. 19, 2012

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    THIS WEEK
    The first men's water polo team ever to win four straight national championships, USC now has the chance to show its stuff on national television. The top-ranked Trojans open up conference competition with ESPNU on the deck of McDonald's Swim Stadium to broadcast USC's clash with No. 4 California at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 23). ESPNU's Trey Bender and Wolf Wigo will be announcing the action.

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    THE LAST MEETING
    USC9  
    California8(SD)
    October 15, 2011
    Berkeley, Calif.
    Trojans Take Down Cal In Sudden Death
    The No. 4 USC men's water polo team wrapped up another tense battle in Berkeley with a win over No. 2 host Cal, this one taken down to the wire and capped off in sudden death by Jeremy Davie's winner with six seconds to go. Both teams held two-goal advantages during the match, but things tightened up in the fourth to push things into another overtime showdown between the Trojans and the Bears, mirroring the 2010 NCAA Championship match between the two teams in the same pool last season, though the tension would crank up even higher as the match went to sudden death. That's where Joel Dennerley's heroics in the cage helped set up a final strike from Davie, who slammed home the winner for a 9-8 Trojan victory.

    RANKINGS
    USC opened 2012 as the No. 1 team in the land -- deference to the Trojans' historic four straight NCAA titles -- and remains there as teams enter the fourth week of 2012 competition. California is ranked No. 4 this week.

    SCOUTING CAL
    The No. 4 Golden Bears are 7-2 overall after taking fourth in last week's NorCal Tournament. Cal beat Air Force 19-2 and UC Irvine 14-7 on the first, then lost 11-10 to UCLA in overtime during the semifinals before taking a 9-8 loss to Stanford in the third-place game.Collin Smith leads Cal in scoring with 29 goals to date, and goalie Michael Boggan is averaging 8.2 saves and 6.5 goals against per game.

    THE SERIES
    USC is 51-52-2 all-time against Cal, dating back to 1979, giving the Trojans the opportunity to pull to an even .500 against the Bears in the programs' series record. Since 1996 with head coach Jovan Vavic at the helm, however, USC is 35-12 against Cal, including an 8-1 record that dates back to the Bears' win over USC in the 2007 NCAA Championship game. USC has won the last two meetings against Cal -- a 9-8 sudden-death win in Berkeley during last year's MPSF regular-season match, and the 12-10 overtime victory in the 2011 NCAA Championship game, also held in Berkeley. Cal's last win over the Trojans was a 12-9 victory in an MPSF match at USC on Oct. 16, 2011.

    LAST WEEK
    In the Trojans' fifth major tournament appearance in Northern California, USC brought home yet another title in rolling up its third straight NorCal Tournament championship last week at Stanford. The three NorCal crowns go along with the Trojans' two latest NCAA Championships also won up north in the past two years. For this 2012 edition of the NorCal Tournament, USC opened with a near-shutout of Pomona-Pitzer as Trojan newcomer James Clark capped up in goal for the first time and hauled in 10 saves in his debut. He would help anchor a 22-1 win for USC while 13 different Trojans scored goals at the other end, led by hat tricks from Kostas Genidounias and Nikola Vavic. The next bracket game of the day put USC up against No. 8 Pepperdine. Ely Bonilla manned the cage in that one, setting his career high with 12 saves as the Trojans topped the Waves 9-4 thanks in part to four goals from Vavic. Solidly set up for a semifnal spot against host Stanford, the Trojans emerged victorious in overtime against the Cardinal, getting an OT goal from Jeremy Davie while the Trojan defense -- again with Bonilla in the cage for 12 more saves -- shut down Stanford in overtime for a 10-9 win. That put the Trojans up against UCLA in the title match for the third straight year. Clark was the goalie for USC in this one, and the Trojans built up a 5-0 lead on the Bruins to cruise through the title match for a 7-6 win that wrapped up a third consecutive NorCal Tournament crown for the Trojans. Vavic was the top gun in the title match with four goals, and Clark finished with 11 saves against the Bruins.

    NIKOLA NETS MPSF PLAYER OF THE WEEK PICK
    Junior Nikola Vavic served up four goals for the Trojans in the championship match of the NorCal Tournament, helping secure USC's third straight title at the tourney and working himself onto the honor roll for MPSF Player of the Week -- the first such honor for the two-time All-American. Vavic finished the tournament with 12 goals overall, including four in the 7-6 win over UCLA in the championship. Vavic scored seven on day one - three vs. Pomona-Pitzer and four vs. Pepperdine. In the semifinal vs. host Stanford, Vavic scored early in the fourth period to give USC a 7-6 lead in an eventual 10-9 overtime win. With his weekend performance, Vavic leads USC with 26 goals this season and climbs to No. 21 all-time on USC's career scoring list with 116 goals.

    SPREAD OFFENSE
    Eight games deep into 2012, 19 different Trojans have scored goals -- just two away from last year's grand total of 21 scorers. Led by 26 from Nikola Vavic to date, USC is flexing some serious scoring muscle in averaging 15.75 goals per game out of the gates. On opening weekend for the Trojans, USC had four players score their first career goals: Mac Carden, Eugene Chong, Russell Renteria and Chase Watson. So far, USC is outscoring opponents 126-34, thanks to a Trojan defense averaging just 4.25 goals-against per game. USC leads the MPSF in both offense and defense to date.

    STRIVE FOR FIVE
    Already in the history books as members of the first program to win four straight national championships, USC still boasts a group of Trojans who are looking for their fifth NCAA championship rings. Redshirt seniors Matt Burton, Michael Rosenthal and Andrew Reego have been at USC for the past four championship runs. And although their fellow four-peater Brian Boswell has been sidelined by medical issues for 2012, the Trojan veterans are aiming to once again roll to victory and grab an unprecedented fifth championship ring. Reego and Rosenthal were redshirts in 2008, when Burton competed as a true freshman. Burton was injured early in 2011, sidelined for the rest of the year but returning now as a captain again for the 2012 Trojans. Those three fifth-year players are part of a talented senior class that is rounded out by Tobias Preuss, who joined the Trojan roster as a sophomore in 2010.

    100 AND COUNTING...
    Junior Nikola Vavic hit the 100-goal mark in the first weekend of action, putting him on pace to blaze a trail toward the top of the USC career scoring list. Now with 116 goals to date in the early goings of his junior season, Vavic is over halfway to making a strong challenge for all-time leader Juraj Zatovic's top spot. Zatovic tallied 220 in his four seasons at Troy, which included two national championships (2003 & 2005). Vavic already has two NCAA titles in the books as he aims to lead the charge for the Trojans for 2012 and beyond.

    AUSTRALIAN TAKEOVER
    The Trojan roster again boast three standout players from Down Under. With the graduation of USC's all-time career saves leader Joel Dennerley, the Trojans have another Aussie goalie in newcomer James Clark-- also a 2012 Olympian alongside Dennerley. Returning Australian All-Americans Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey are also back in the water with plenty of championship experience for the Trojans, having been key members of the last two runs to NCAA glory.

    CAGE FIGHTERS
    USC has what is becoming the most dominant goalkeeping tandem in the nation. In a tag-team effort at last weekend's NorCal Tournament, redshirt sophomore Ely Bonilla and newcomer James Clark averaged 11.25 saves per game while allowing an average of 5.0 goals per game. Although teammates for the first time this year, both goalies have had the distinction of playing behind four-time All-American, Cutino Award winner and Olympian Joel Dennerley. After redshirting the 2010 season, Bonilla was a backup to Dennerley in USC's run to the 2011 NCAA Championship, and Clark was Dennerley's capable understudy for Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

    HOME WATERS
    The Trojans have the chance to put on a true championship show for its USC fan base this year, as both the 2012 MPSF Tournament and the 2012 NCAA Championships will be held on the USC campus. McDonald's Swim Stadium -- which is due to begin transformation into the Uytengsu Aquatics Center as soon as the national championship trophy is hoisted in the air -- will be the site of both postseason tournaments in 2012.

    2011 RECAP
    The 2011 Trojans never slipped farther than the No. 2 spot in the national rankings and wrapped up the year on top once again as USC made history as the first-ever men's water polo team to win four consecutive national championships. Behind a set of eight All-Americans, including National Player of the Year and Cutino Award winner Joel Dennerley, the Trojans finished 2011 with a 24-3 overall record after an 8-0 run through the MPSF regular season. In addition to Dennerley, senior Peter Kurzeka also finished up his Trojan career as a four-time NCAA champ and also with another set of All-American honors. Head coach Jovan Vavic was named National Coach of the Year, with six more Trojans on the All-America list: Jeremy Davie, Nikola Vavic, Kostas Genidounias, Tobias Preuss, Mace Rapsey and Michael Rosenthal. USC saw a 13-game win streak snapped in the MPSF Tournament final by UCLA, but the Trojans would exact revenge with a dominating 7-4 win over the Bruins in the national championship game. Kurzeka was USC's top scorer with 42 goals on the year, followed by Nikola Vavic with 41. In all, the Trojan offense -- charged by 21 different scorers -- averaged 11.6 goals per game, while the defense again led the nation with just 5.4 goals against per game. USC outscored opponents 314-146 in 2011. •