Men's Water Polo
    No. 3 USC Faces Pepperdine On Friday At Home, Visits UC Irvine On Sunday

    Oct. 5, 2016

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    THIS WEEK
    USC is in a winning groove as it continues to push through nonconference action. This week, the No. 3 Trojans (12-1) have another home test on tap when No. 8 Pepperdine (8-5) comes to down for a 5 p.m. faceoff on Friday (Oct. 7) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The, USC hits the road for a Sunday (Oct. 9) trip to Irvine to face the No. 17 Anteaters (7-6) at 1 p.m.

    THE LAST MEETING
    Pepperdine2
    USC8
    October 17, 2015
    Uytengsu Aquatics Center
    No. 2 Trojans Crash Waves With Second-Half Surge
    The No. 2 USC men’s water polo team shrugged off a tight first half of action and forged a decisive path to victory in shutting out visiting No. 9 Pepperdine in the final 16 minutes of play en route to an 8-2 win. The Trojans never trailed, but were challenged by the Waves in the first stretch. USC held just a one-goal lead at halftime before firing off a run of five unanswered goals while the Trojan defense made sure Pepperdine came up empty at the other end. The 8-2 win improves USC to 16-2 overall and makes the Trojans’ MPSF mark a perfect 4-0.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC14
    UC Irvine3
    September 3, 2016
    La Jolla, Calif.
    USC-PEPPERDINE LIVE STATS

    USC-UC IRVINE LIVE STATS

    RANKINGS
    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 were tabbed as the No. 2 team in the land for the first four weeks of play before moving to No. 3, where USC remains for the second week.

    LAST WEEK
    USC grabbed three more wins last week, opening up with a pair at the Lancer Invitational in Riverside. In back-to-back action, the Trojans first issued a 21-2 decision over Concordia before turning right around and matching that offensive output in a 21-3 victory over Fresno Pacific. Sixteen different Trojans contributed to the scoring onslaught across the two games. Topping the USC scoring attack against Concordia was Blake Edwards, who matched his career high with six goals scored against the Eagles. Grant Stein weighed in next with four goals to help pace the Trojans to the finish line of a 21-2 victory. Moments later, USC was right back at it with a new opponent in the pool. Offensively, six new Trojans got in on the scoring action, with Daniel Leong and Sam Slobodien boasting the hottest hands with four goals apiece in USC’s 21-3 victory over Fresno Pacific to wrap the Trojans’ day in Riverside and send them home with a three-game win streak. Back in home waters, USC whipped up the first seven goals of the game and kept visiting No. 4 Pacific at bay the rest of the way en route to a 15-7 victory. Ten different Trojans contributed to the scoring onslaught, while goalie McQuin Baron crept even closer to the No. 2 all-time career saves slot as he collected 14 saves on the defensive end. Lachlan Edwards was USC’s top gun in that one with a hat trick to lead the Trojan offense.

    SCOUTING PEPPERDINE
    The No. 8 Waves are 8-5 overall with a Thursday game against UC Santa Barbara to play before coming to USC on Friday. Last week, Pepperdine lost to Pacific 9-8. Marko Asic is the Waves’ top scorer with 38 goals. Goalie Zach Rhodes is averaging 10.7 saves and 8.95 goals-against per game in his 12 appearances. USC is 62-19-2 all-time against the Waves with wins in the past 16 meetings. Last year, USC beat Pepperdine 8-2 during conference play. Pepperdine has since left the MPSF to join the new Gold Coast Conference.

    SCOUTING UC IRVINE
    The No. 17 Anteaters are 7-6 overall after an 11-0 loss to UCLA last week. Jack Trush is UC Irvine’s top scorer with 25 goals. Goalie Matej Matijevic is averaging 13.6 saves and 7.9 goals-against per game in his 13 appearances. USC is 76-23 all-time against the Anteaters with wins in the past 28 meetings after picking up a 14-3 win to start this 2016 season. Last year, USC beat UC Irvine 12-4 at the NorCal Tournament and then won 14-8 during conference play. UC Irvine has since left the MPSF to join the new Gold Coast Conference.

    LACHY LEADS THE WAY
    The first Trojan to capture MPSF Player of the Week honors this season was junior 2-meter man Lachlan Edwards, who picked up the award on Sept. 12 for his work in three USC wins the previous week. Edwards had a team-high three goals in USC’s 14-3 win over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara in the Trojans’ home opener. The next day at the Inland Empire Classic, Edwards again led USC with four goals scored in a 27-3 win over Whittier and then added four more in USC’s 26-1 win over La Verne. After his 11-goal weekend, Edwards now stands as USC’s second leading scorer with 12 goals for the 5-0 Trojans. It was the first MPSF weekly award for Edwards at USC, but he didn’t take long to gather in another. The junior snagged the Oct. 3 selection as well after scoring seven goals across three games, including a hat trick in a home win over No. 4 Pacific last weekend.

    VAVIC HITS 500 (AGAIN)
    The Trojans’ 12-1 start to the 2016 season now has Jovan Vavic gripping an 506 career wins at the helm of the USC men’s program. Vavic captured that 500th career victory on Sept. 17 in USC’s 8-4 win 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. Vavic is one of just four USC coaches to collect 500 or more wins while at Troy.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Now 13 games into 2016, the Trojans continue to pin up some powerful numbers. Led by 22 goals from junior Blake Edwards and 21 from fellow junior and younger brother Lachlan Edwards, the USC offense has clicked off 208 goals to date. Defensively, the Trojans have allowed no more than four goals in all but two games, while shutting out opponents in 24 periods, including at least one shutout frame in every game but one this year. In all, USC has outscored opponents 208-50. Goalie McQuin Baron has capped up in the cage in 12 games and is averaging 10.3 saves and just 3.8 goals-against per game while closing in to within two saves of the No. 2 spot on the all-time career saves list at Troy. As a team, USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in defense (3.85 gapg) and in offense (16.0 gpg).

    ON THE RISE
    USC has several Trojans rising in the rankings this season. Junior goalie McQuin Baron already has laid claim to the top two single-season saves marks, and in doing so has helped to pad out his career count to a whopping 673 career saves. That has Baron locked in as USC’s No. 3 all-time saves leader, although he is just two saves away from stepping up to the No. 2 spot currently held by Kevin Stringer (675). The record-holder at Troy remains four-time NCAA champ Joel Dennerley, who collected 855 saves from 2008-11. Also making the climb on the career ladders are five Trojans closing the gap on the 100-goal club at Troy. Grant Stein (97 goals), Matteo Morelli (92), Lachlan Edwards (92), Blake Edwards (90) and Nick Bell (86) all are within reach of breaking the century mark this year. Stay tuned!

    MATT MAKES HIS MARK
    True freshman Matt Maier was USC’s second leading scorer at the Mountain Pacific Invitational, scoring in every game at the tourney as the Trojans took third place at the event. For his powerful performance, Maier was selected as the MPSF Newcomer of the Week — the first Trojan to win the award this season — on Sept. 26. Maier scored twice in group play wins over No. 19 Santa Clara (21-4) and No. 7 Long Beach State (9-4). In the semifinals, Maier scored once in USC’s 10-8 loss to No. 3 Cal. And in the third-place game, Maier added his sixth goal of the tournament with a skip shot that netted USC an early 3-0 lead over No. 4 Pacific en route to an 8-3 win to take third at the tournament. Maier had entered the tournament having scored just 3 goals in USC’s first six games before delivering six for the Trojans in Berkeley.

    ALL-AMERICAN ARSENAL
    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.

    OLYMPIC ENDEAVORS
    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.

    POWER CLASS
    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.

    YOUNG GUNS
    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.

    FAMILY TIES
    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, as both are closing in on the 100-goal mark for their USC careers to date. Lachlan came to USC as a true freshman in 2014 and soon convinced his older brother Blake to join the fun. Blake arrived in 2015 and also is now a junior academically alongside Lachlan. Hawaiian products, 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.

    CONFERENCE CHANGES
    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.

    2015 RECAP
    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.

    MOUNTAIN PACIFIC INVITE RECAP
    USC finished up in third place at the first edition of the Mountain Pacific Invitational in Berkeley. The Trojans opened up with a resounding 21-4 win over No. 19 Santa Clara before closing out group play with a 9-4 win over No. 7 Long Beach State. Against the Broncos, USC distributed its scoring among 11 different players in building an 11-0 lead. A first-half shutout care of goalie McQuin Baron helped power up the Trojans for the big win, while a season-high 14 different scorers contributed to the victory. Against the 49ers, the USC defense shut down its opponent for a full 24 minutes to lock away the win and punch a ticket to the semifinals. In the semi, USC squared off against tournament host No. 3 California. The Golden Bears were amped for the matchup and took early control of things with a five-goal surge while the Trojans misfired on their offensive end. A final 10-8 loss relegated the Trojans to the third-place game, where they’d clash with No. 4 Pacific. USC was ready for that one, crafting a 3-0 lead and then fending off a push by the Tigers before hitting the gas and issuing a fourth-quarter shutout paired with three more USC goals to post an 8-3 win and take hold of the third-place finish at the tourney.

    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. •