Men's Water Polo
    Top-ranked Trojans Host Princeton, Set Up For More SoCal Glory
    After a Thursday night home game, Trojans will take aim at a ninth straight NorCal title this weekend.
    After a Thursday night home game, Trojans will take aim at a ninth straight NorCal title this weekend.

    Sept. 28, 2011

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    THIS WEEK
    The top-ranked USC men's water polo team has a full slate of action on tap for the week. The undefeated Trojans (6-0) first have a homepool clash set up against No. 14 Princeton (10-1) on Thursday (Sept. 29) at 7 p.m. After that primer, USC will head down to Long Beach State, which is the site of this year's SoCal Tournament. The Trojans have reigned supreme at the tough tourney for eight straight seasons now, and USC has its eye on claiming title number nine this weekend in the competition running Saturday and Sunday in Long Beach and Los Alamitos. The eight-time defending champs are bracketed with Pomona-Pitzer, UC Davis and UC Irvine, with the opening match at 8 a.m. on Saturday (Oct. 1) against Pomona-Pitzer at Long Beach State's Campus Pool. A crossover game with either the Anteaters or the Aggies will be that afternoon. Two Saturday wins would move USC over to the pool at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos for an 11:10 a.m. semifinal. The title match is scheduled for 5:50 p.m., preceded by the 4:30 p.m. third-place game.

    RANKINGS
    USC opened 2011 as the No. 1 team in the land -- deference to the Trojans' three straight NCAA titles and status as reigning MPSF Tournament champs -- and remains there after an undefeated start to the season. Princeton is ranked No. 14 in the nation this week. USC's groupmates for this weekend's SoCal Tournament includes No. 7 UC Irvine, No. 9 UC Davis and No. 20 Pomona-Pitzer. USC is the top seed in the tourney, with the rest of the field including No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 California, No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 6 Pacific, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara, No. 11 LMU, No. 12 UC San Diego, No. 13 host Long Beach State, No. 14 Princeton, No. 15 Santa Clara and unranked Air Force.

    SCOUTING PRINCETON
    The No. 14 Tigers are 10-1 overall on the way into an early-afternoon match at LMU on Saturday before heading to USC to face the Trojans in the evening. Princeton's only loss of the year was an 11-10 defeat to Johns Hopkins last weekend before the Tigers beat Navy 11-9 in OT and George Washington 14-8. Kayj Shannon leads Princeton with 22 goals, and goalie Tyler Amina is averaging 6.3 saves and 4.4 goals-against per game in 11 appearances. USC is 3-0 all-time against Princeton, last facing in 2009 when USc posted a 14-3 win over the Tigers at McDonald's Swim Stadium.

    SOCAL TOURNEY NOTES
    This year's edition of the SoCal Tournament will take place at Long Beach State this weekend and will include all nine MPSF teams, along with competitive teams from around the country. Non-California-based powers Air Force and Princeton are making the trip to Long Beach, along with UC Davis, UC San Diego, LMU, Pomona-Pitzer and Santa Clara. All told, 14 of the top 15 ranked teams in the nation will be in the mix, with 15 teams ranked in this week's national top-20. Last year, USC won its ninth consecutive SoCal tournament title, beating UC Santa Barbara 7-6 in the semifinal and then facing UCLA in the title match, winning 9-8 to extend the Trojans' domination at the tourney. USC had opened the weekend with a 22-5 win over Redlands and a 17-5 win over Long Beach State on the first day of action. CLICK HERE for 2011 SoCal Tournament Central

    LAST WEEK
    USC stayed in defensive control in its MPSF opener against visiting No. 8 UC Irvine last week. The Anteaters would work to within one goal while the USC offense lulled, but the Trojans closed things out with a push to the end for a 7-4 victory. A successful UC Irvine 6-on-5 would close the gap to 4-3 with 6:12 on the clock in the third period of play, but Forest Monroe would put a stop to the Anteaters' next power play opportunity with a field block, and USC was off to the races to create some room against UCI. Peter Kurzeka scored twice and added three assists, with Stephen Siri also adding a pair of goals for the Trojan offense in the MPSF kick-off.

    ANOTHER NOTCH IN NORCAL
    USC made an early-season statement in capturing its second straight NorCal Tournament title behind a history-making defensive stand from USC goalie Joel Dennerley and a five-goal frenzy from newcomer Kostas Genidounias in a 10-8 championship win over UCLA. The Trojan had made short work of Stanford in the semifinals, stacking up its biggest win over Stanford since 2008 with a powerful 12-5 victory. Stockton also was the site of the Trojans' last big win over Stanford, which USC beat 10-3 in the 2008 tourney semis. USC's championship run was set up by two wins on Saturday in group play. The Trojans moved past West Valley JC with a 20-3 decision that they followed with an 11-4 win over UC Irvine. Ten Trojans scored in the victory over the Anteaters. Leading the scoring front in the last three games of the tourney was Genidounias with eight goals, followed by four each from Brian Boswell and Michael Rosenthal. Goalie Dennerley amassed 37 saves in those three games including a career day of 19 saves vs. the Bruins. For his historic and impressive saves tally in the winning run, Dennerley also collected his seventh career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week.

    AUSTRALIAN TAKEOVER
    Senior Joel Dennerley became USC's all-time career saves leader while also helping the Trojans claim their second straight NorCal Tournament championship. After 12 saves in a dominating 12-5 semifinal win over Stanford, Dennerley needed just three saves in the title match against UCLA in order to take over as USC's all-time career saves leader. The senior went well over that mark in collecting a career-high 19 saves for the Trojans' defensive stand against the rival Bruins, anchoring a 10-8 win to net the tournament title for USC while chiseling himself in Trojan history by eclipsing a 24-year stand by Kevin Stringer as the USC saves leader. Dennerley now holds 698 career saves. He's averaging 9.5 saves per game now, with 4.7 goals against.

    IN THE BOOKS
    USC seniors Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka have inked their names on the USC career charts with impressive numbers as they touch in on their final seasons at Troy. Dennerley became USC's all-time career saves leader with a career-high 19-save outing vs. UCLA in the NorCal Championship game on Sept. 18. Kurzeka, meanwhile, is climbing up the career goals ladder. His 100th career goal was the winner in USC's 2010 NCAA Championship game, and he now holds 115 to stand alone at No. 20 all-time.

    INTERNATIONAL PREVIEW
    Trojans Jeremy Davie and Kostas Genidounias have joined forces as teammates for the first time after having squared off as opponents at the FINA Men's Junior World Championships. A returning All-American for the Trojans, Davie capped up for his Australian Junior National Team, while newcomer Genidounias was a hometown hero for his Greek Junior National Team for the competition that came to a close on Sept. 4 in Volos, Greece. Both Trojans were key contributors for their respective squads overseas, as Australia and Greece wound up clashing in the third-place game. Davie struck first for Australia in the game, but it was Greece that would prevail in a 7-5 decision that secured a bronze medal for Genidounias and his Greek teammates. Both Trojans have wasted no time making an impact for USC. Genidounias dumped in eight goals in three games at the NorCal Tournament, and Davie is averaging a goal a game with four to date.

    SENIOR CORE AIMS FOR FOUR
    Trojan seniors Matt Burton, Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka were freshmen when USC won the 2009 NCAA championship. As sophomores, they again held the trophy high at the end of that season. Last year, as juniors, they led a USC squad picked to finish fourth in the conference to the top yet again. Now, with the stiff breeze of three straight national championships pushing them into their senior season at Troy, the All-American trio aims to go out on top once again and, in doing so, become the first collegiate men's water polo team ever to win four consecutive national championships.

    YOUNG GUNS RETURN
    Offensively, USC's top 10 scorers from 2010 are back in the water. That group accounted for 81 percent of USC's goal count last season. USC's top scorer as a freshman and an All-American as well, Nikola Vavic returns. More young power is generated from All-American Jeremy Davie, and fellow sophomores Mace Rapsey and Connor Virjee, who helped claim that third straight title in their first seasons of action with the Trojans, along with Tobias Preuss and Stephen Siri. More veteran talent comes in the form of Brian Boswell and Michael Rosenthal, members of USC's last two NCAA championship rosters. New guns are also in line to make a further impact as the Trojan depth charge expands for 2011.

    2010 RECAP
    The 2010 Trojans were picked fourth in both the 2010 MPSF and national preseason polls before thundering through the season with a 26-2 overall record to add the 2010 NCAA crown to its 2008 and 2009 trophies. USC dropped two losses during the regular season, but went on a roll to close out the year by winning the MPSF Tournament title and then finishing off a 12-10 overtime win over host Cal in the NCAA Championship game. It was USC's 25th NCAA appearance and sixth national championship, and gave the Trojans their fourth title in the past six seasons. Jovan Vavic was named the National Coach of the Year, making him the only men's water polo coach to earn three consecutive selections. Five Trojans were named All-Americans at year's end as well. MPSF Player of the Year Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka earned First Team honors, with Matt Burton, Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie also named All-Americans. Vavic was the team's top scorer with 49 goals, leading a set of 21 scorers on the year. As a team, USC was the best in the MPSF, averaging 12.7 goals per game offensively and allowing 6.1 goals per game defensively. USC outscored its opponents 382-183 in 2010. •