Men's Water Polo
    No. 2 USC Invites No. 9 UC Irvine To Town For MPSF Opener
    Connor Virjee and the Trojans take aim at another home win this weekend.
    Connor Virjee and the Trojans take aim at another home win this weekend.

    Oct. 2, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 2 USC men's water polo team will spend another weekend at home as the Trojans line up to host their first MPSF game of the year. USC (12-1) goes up against No. 9 UC Irvine (10-2) in a 1 p.m. clash on Saturday (Oct. 5) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Despite the ongoing construction of the state-of-the-art venue, the Trojans' pool is still in full effect, and fans have plenty of space in the upper stands.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC18
    UC Irvine7
    October 25, 2012
    Irvine, Calif.
    No. 1 USC Cruises To 18-7 Win At No. 8 UC Irvine
    The No. 1 USC men's water polo team kept its undefeated 2012 record safely intact with a decisive MPSF win at No. 8 UC Irvine tonight. In the Trojans' ninth straight game away from home, USC took control in the first half, allowing just three goals by halftime while Kostas Genidounias led USC with a hat trick at the half on his way to a four-goal day in an eventual 18-7 USC win over the Anteaters. USC improves to 18-0 overall and 4-0 in MPSF play with tonight's win.

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    RANKINGS
    USC was ranked No. 1 in the nation from Nov. 9, 2011 up until this week's Sept. 25 rankings. USC's Sept. 22 loss to UCLA snapped a 41-game winning streak held by the Trojans, who are now ranked No. 2 in the nation for the second week in a row. UC Irvine is ranked No. 9 this week.

    SCOUTING UC IRVINE
    The No. 9 Anteaters are 10-2 overall with their last action coming two weeks ago at the NorCal Tournament, where UC Irvine fell to LMU 12-9 in the ninth-place game. Mitch Wise is the Anteaters' top scorer with 45 goals. Goalies Michael Bailey and Alex Kazmier have shared time in goal, averaging 11.3 and 12.4 saves per game, respectively, while the UCI defense as a whole is allowing 6.5 goals against per game. USC is 70-23 all-time against the Anteaters with wins in the past 22 straight meetings. Last year, USC beat UCI 18-7 in their MPSF matchup in Irvine.

    LAST WEEK
    In a day that saw 13 different Trojans hit the back of the net, it was the defense that stole the show for the USC last weekend in its home openers. In fact, it was a knack for steals that helped USC rack up goals as the Trojans piled up a 22-4 win over Princeton and then a 23-2 win over Whittier in a busy morning at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. USC extended its overall home winning streak out to 30 in a row thanks to this year's first action at the Trojans' home pool. The doubleheader began with a bout against No. 11 Princeton, which came into the game with an unblemished 6-0 record on the year. Princeton's Jovan Jeremic would finish the day with a hat trick for the Tigers, but USC would group four Trojans into that same category by the final buzzer. After eight different Trojans accounted for USC's first eight goals of the day, Zach Lucas, Nikola Vavic and Kostas Genidounias would each add two more in the second half to get to hat tricks in the game. Mace Rapsey turned on his scoring touch in the second half, finishing off a USC counterattack with a score that closed the third frame with USC up 14-4. In the fourth frame, Rapsey would join that trio of Trojans in adding two more scores to round out his hat trick. Princeton managed two goals in the second period as Jeremic went back-to-back to make it 10-4 on the scoreboard. But USC answered with a 12-goal scoring surge with help from Jeremy Davie, Marc Vonderweidt and Mac Carden joining in the scoring onslaught as the Trojans wrapped the game as a 22-4 USC win with Trojan goalie James Clark going the distance for 10 saves. The Trojans would have only a short break to regroup and turn their attention to Whittier. The momentum gathered from the 12-goal run with which they finished the Princeton match saw the Trojans stay hot for their startup against the Poets. USC rattled off 11 straight goals out of the gates versus Whittier, thanks in part to four goals scored in the first three minutes of the game. Vavic nailed the first two, followed by a solo shot from Genidounias -- who would finish with four goals in the game -- and then a slick cross from Virjee to Nick Bell for the finish and a 4-0 USC lead. Virjee, Genidounias and Jeremy Davie would stay dangerous during the surge, which was capped at 11-0 by a 5-meter penalty shot earned by Davie and converted by Vonderweidt. Whittier got on the board with a 6-on-5 strike by Nicolas Beavers, and the first half was rounded out with USC ahead 11-1. Aleck Ryner had ruled the cage for that first half, making six saves before giving way to Paul Mitre for the second half. Both goalies would allow just a single Poet goal during their service, while the Trojans defense aided the cause by nabbing takeaway after takeaway. In the second half, Ivan Kustic and Mac Carden both amassed hat tricks for the Trojan cause as USC finished the game with 11 different scorers. Genidounias led the way with his four, followed by Vavic with his second hat trick of the day and Kustic and Carden's three-goal efforts.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Thirteen games into 2013, the Trojans are putting up some big numbers. Led by Nikola Vavic with 38 goals, Kostas Genidounias with 33, Connor Virjee with 25, Mace Rapsey with 19 and Rex Butler with 17, USC has outscored opponents 241-60 -- quadrupling its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 4.62 goals per game and has held opponents scoreless in 15 periods of regulation play so far.

    CAREER COUNTER
    Nikola Vavic entered 2013 in the books ranked No. 4 all-time in USC scoring history. After two weekends of work, Vavic took over the No. 2 spot, and he now holds 211 career goals. That puts the senior 10 goals away from taking over the No. 1 spot, occupied by Juraj Zatovic, who scored 220 goals in his four seasons at Troy. Also having officially made their marks in the USC charts are senior Jeremy Davie and junior Kostas Genidounias, who broke through the 100-goal threshold on the first weekend of action. Genidounias is now up to No. 15 all-time with 132 goals, and Davie ranks No. 25 with 112 to date. Senior Mace Rapsey is on pace to crack the century mark as well. He now holds 94 career goals.

    NORCAL NOTABLES
    went in defense of three straight NorCal Tournament titles last week in action in the Bay Area. The Trojans beat Diablo Valley College to open the tourney and topped Pepperdine 9-4 to earn a place in Sunday's semifinals against Stanford. There, USC had to endure a four-goal scoring surge by the Cardinal that saw Stanford turn a 4-2 Trojan lead into a 6-4 Stanford advantage midway through the fourth quarter. USC snapped that scoreless slump with a blast from Kostas Genidounias to cut the deficit to one with 1:40 to go in regulation. In the final minute, Zach Lucas punched in the equalizer to make it 6-6 and ultimately force overtime. Genidounias' third goal of the game came during the first OT frame, putting USC up 7-6. The Trojans would extend their scoring run out to four in a row when Connor Virjee ripped in a score to take the Trojans ahead 8-6 with 1:31 left in OT. Stanford got one to go with 25 ticks to go, but the Trojans held strong to their advantage to net the 8-7 win and punch their ticket to the title match for a shot at defending their three straight NorCal titles. That put the Trojans up against UCLA in the NorCal final for the fourth straight year. This time, the Bruins would pull off the win, though. Neither team led by more than a single goal throughout as the two rivals fought through eight ties. The Trojans would trail the Bruins 4-3 after the first frame, but took a 6-5 advantage at halftime thanks to a score from Nikola Vavic with 39 seconds to go. In the third, Virjee would deliver another final-minute strike for USC to put the Trojans up 7-6 entering the fourth frame. The Bruins opened the fourth with back-to-back goals to put USC behind 8-7 with five minutes left in regulation. Genidounias would come up with the equalizer with 3:30 to go, only to see the Bruins jump back on top 45 seconds later. That 9-8 UCLA edge would hold up until the buzzer, leaving the Bruins as the winners of this 2013 NorCal Tournament title. Genidounias and Mace Rapsey would finish as USC's top scorers in the tournament, scoring six goals apiece. USC's game against Diablo Valley did not count toward official records or stats as DVC is a junior college team.

    WORKING ON A SIX-PACK
    USC has played in the NCAA championship game nine times in the past decade. Seven national titles have come during that span. But it isn't just a place in the final that USC is aiming for. No, for 2013 the Trojans have only one mission. USC has won five consecutive titles, and the Trojans can make more history in extending that streak to six this season. No collegiate water polo team has won more than five crowns in a row. USC matched Cal's then-record three-in-a-row by beating the Bears in their home pool in 2010. In 2011, the Trojans etched their place in history with a fourth straight in beating UCLA. And in 2012 USC defended its own pool and beat the Bruins in the final again to stretch that streak to five. Now, the Trojans are looking to pick up a sixth. Stay tuned!

    CULTURE CLUB
    USC's NCAA championship streak began before this incoming freshman class started high school. So although the 2013 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 NCAA championship ring in his trophy case. The senior class of six Trojans, meanwhile, have accumulated 16 rings among them. Five of those seniors -- Jeremy Davie, Zach Lucas, Mace Rapsey, Nikola Vavic and Connor Virjee -- along with redshirt juniors Rex Butler and Max Hurst-Mendoza were true freshmen in 2010 when USC grabbed its third straight title. Senior goalie James Clark, meanwhile, has never experienced a loss as a Trojan. He began his USC career in the cage last season, when the Trojans rolled to a perfect 29-0 record

    TOP GUNS
    Senior Nikola Vavic and junior Kostas Genidounias combined for a whopping 151 goals last season. Vavic set the USC record for single-season scoring with 83 goals in 2012, while Genidounias hit the No. 5 all-time mark with 68 goals. In all, four of USC's top five scorers from 2012 are back. Mace Rapsey and Jeremy Davie provided 30 and 29 goals, respectively, last year. Zach Lucas, Rex Butler, Connor Virjee and Marc Vonderweidt each delivered at least 10 goals in 2012.

    AUSTRALIAN TAKEOVER
    The Trojan roster again boasts three standout players from Down Under. Goalie James Clark was a 2012 Olympian alongside former Trojan goalie Joel Dennerley. Clark earned All-American status in 2012, while his fellow Aussies Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey earned repeat All-American accolades. As key members of the past three runs to NCAA glory, Davie and Rapsey combined for 175 goals in their first three seasons of work. Clark averaged 10.1 saves and 6.3 goals against per game in his debut season with the Trojans last year.

    2012 RECAP
    USC rolled undefeated through its 2012 campaign, winning its eighth MPSF Tournament title and going on to claim its eighth overall national championship with a dramatic comeback win to beat crosstown rival UCLA 11-10 in the Trojans' home pool. Head coach Jovan Vavic was named National Coach of the Year in leading the Trojans to a perfect 29-0 record for the second time in five seasons. National Player of the Year Nikola Vavic led a group of eight All-Americans, including seniors Matt Burton, Michael Rosenthal and Stephen Siri, juniors Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey and sophomore Kostas Genidounias. USC was ranked No. 1 from start to finish in 2012, with Nikola Vavic setting a new USC with 83 goals scored in the season en route to being named a finalist for the Cutino Award. In all, the Trojan offense -- charged by 21 different scorers -- averaged 14.3 goals per game, while the defense again led the nation with just 5.9 goals against per game. USC outscored opponents 416-170 in 2012, marking the most goals scored in a year by the Trojans since at least 1983.

    TROJANS REUNITE!
    The 2013-14 academic year marks 125 Years of Athletics at USC. To celebrate this milestone in USC history, each home football game will be a Reunion Weekend to recognize the accomplishments of the great teams, athletes and coaches of the past. USC water polo's Reunion Weekend is scheduled for Nov. 16, when USC men's water polo hosts Stanford at Uytengsu Center. All reunited Trojans are also invited to an Athletes Pre-Game Picnic before being honored at the USC football game vs. Stanford that same day at the Coliseum. For more information for interested alums, visit usctrojans.com/reunions.

    125 YEARS OF GREATNESS
    Since fielding a football team in 1888, USC has had an unparalleled athletic tradition, including 120 national team championships, an unprecedented 419 Olympians and 52 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars as the Trojan family celebrates its 125th anniversary this 2013-14 academic year. Including the USC women's soccer team's historic 2007 NCAA Championship victory, USC boasts a grand total of 120 national team championships, including a national-best 82 men's NCAA crowns. Trojan men have won more individual NCAA titles (309) than those from any other school, while the Women of Troy have added another 69 individual NCAA titles. Four Trojans have won the prestigious Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. Two Women of Troy athletes have won the Honda Cup as the top collegiate female athlete of the year and there have been 15 Honda Award winners as the top female athlete in their sport. USC not only has more Olympians than any school, but more Olympic medalists (287) and gold medalists (135). USC water polo is a big part of that Olympic tradition, having sent 10 Trojans to the 2012 Olympics in Beijing, with four Trojans winning medals. Thanks in part to USC's water polo participants, a Trojan has won a gold medal in every summer Olympics since 1912. Go to usctrojans.com/125 to revisit the athletic highlights for Trojans the past 125 years. •