No. 4 USC Hits Home Waters For High Noon Clash With No. 5 UC Santa Barbara|
Oct. 1, 2014
The No. 4 USC men's water polo team makes its triumphant return to home waters this week, finally in action at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center for the first time since the new facility was completed in early 2014. Saturday's game puts the six-time defending NCAA champs back on their home stage, as the Trojans (11-2. 1-0 MPSF) host No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (8-2, 0-0) at 12 p.m. for an MPSF matchup on Saturday (Oct. 4). Following the game, USC will hold its Alumni Game at 1:30 p.m., welcoming home Trojan greats for a battle at Uytengsu. RANKINGS
The six-time defending NCAA champion Trojans entered 2014 ranked No. 2 in the nation in the preseason poll. USC moved to No. 3 for the next two weeks, and has since been at No. 4 in the past two national polls. USC also found itself ranked No. 4 in the nation for a couple weeks last season.SCOUTING UCSB
The No. 5 Gauchos are 8-2 overall after taking fifth at the KAP7 NorCal Classic. UC Santa Barbara beat LMU 12-9 before falling to USC 12-7 later that day. The Gauchos would beat Pacific 9-7 to earn a spot in the fifth-place game, where UCSB beat Long Beach State 14-13 in double sudden-death. Eric van de Mortel is UCSB's top scorer with 16 goals. Goalie Chris Whitelegge is averaging 9.9 saves and 8.4 goals-against per game. USC is 65-12-2 all-time against the Gauchos, holding a 47-game win streak after the Trojans 12-7 win over UCSB two weeks ago. The Gauchos' last win over USC was an 11-8 decision back in 1990 at USC.LAST WEEK
USC forced its way to a conference-opening victory with authority last week, breaking open the game at No. 11 Pepperdine for a 21-5 win in Malibu. The Trojans plunked in the first three goals of the game and steadily increased their vice grip on the game. In the final frame, USC left no doubt in pinning up eight more goals to register the dominating 1-0 start to MPSF action. Kostas Genidounias delivered his second during that final frame, pulling himself into a tie at No. 2 in USC's career scoring chart. Trojan goalies McQuin Baron and Ben Goncharenko split time in the cage in the first half, with Goncharenko pitching a shut out in the second period as USC built a 4-2 first-quarter lead into an 8-2 halftime advantage. Baron took over once again in the second half, while the Trojans put their foot on the offensive gas. Freshman Bryce Hoerman had the hottest hand down the stretch in blasting three more goals to finish out the game with a career-high four. In the third period, freshman Lazar Pasuljevic zipped in the first goals of his Trojan career, tacking up two as USC built its advantage out to 13-4 entering the final frame. It was the fourth period that saw the Trojans fully hit their stride at both ends of the pool. Pepperdine was only able to crack the Trojan defense with an early goal, making it 13-5 but only serving to spark USC for the final sprint to the end. James Walters started the rally on USC's next possession, and it was all-Trojans the rest of the way. Genidounias zipped in his second of the day with a 5-meter blast to make it 15-5, and USC just kept chugging. Max Hurst-Mendoza delivered next before Hoerman went back-to-back. Matteo Morelli wrapped goals around one from Lachlan Edwards, who was finishing off his hat trick, and USC had a 21-5 victory in the books.IT'S HAPPENED BEFORE...
Before anyone gets too anxious about the back-to-back losses sustained by the Trojans at the NorCal Tournament, rest assured that USC has fought back from similar stumbles in recent seasons, all the while continuing to build on its historic NCAA championship win streak. Back in 2011, USC lost two in a row as it stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the SoCal Tournament. The Trojans would regroup, however, avenging both those losses and powering on to win a fourth consecutive national championship. Last week's loss to Cal snapped a six-game win streak against the Golden Bears, who last beat the Trojans in 2010 during MPSF play -- a 12-9 decision in Cal's favor. That same season, though, saw USC avenge that loss in the finest of forms. The Trojans would beat the Bears in overtime at Cal's own pool to claim the 2010 NCAA Championship -- USC's third straight title.BY THE NUMBERS
Now 13 games into 2014, the Trojans have been putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 41 goals, Matteo Morelli with 28 and Grant Stein with 26, there are a grand total of 11 Trojans already with at least 10 goals apiece. Six of them are freshmen and four are seniors, exhibiting some dangerous balance for USC. To date, USC has outscored opponents 240-76 -- more than triple its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 5.85 goals per game, having held opponents scoreless in the third quarter in five games.KOSTAS ON THE CLIMB
Three-time All-American senior Kostas Genidounias has been on the rise in the USC scoring ranks throughout his time at Troy. He's the Trojans' top scorer this season with 41 goals to date, giving him 220 in his career to stand tied at No. 2 all-time in career scoringwith Juraj Zatovic. Genidounias will take the No. 2 spot for himself with one more goal. Nikola Vavic stands at No. 1 with 254 career goals. That puts Genidounias 34 goals from taking over the top spot. Stay tuned!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 80 goals (third most in program history) for USC last season as a junior, giving him a career count of 179 to rank him No. 4 all-time entering 2014. Butler scored 40 goals last year, giving him 69 overall as he pursues a spot in the 100-goal club by the close of his Trojan career. That pair stands 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.