Oct. 19, 2016
USC Water Polo Release
USC sets its course slightly southward this week as the Trojans turn to a nonconference clash at Long Beach State. The No. 3 Trojans (15-1) will pay a visit to the No. 6 49ers (11-5) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 22) in Long Beach, looking to pick up a second win over the Beach this year.
THE LAST MEETING
September 24, 2016
No. 2 Trojans Take A Spot In Third-Place Game At Mountain Pacific Invite
The No. 2 USC men's water polo team was tagged with its first loss of 2016 after falling to host California in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Invitational today in Berkeley. The Trojans opened the day soundly with a strong 9-4 win over No. 7 Long Beach State to score a spot in the semis. This evening, USC and the No. 3 Golden Bears tangled for the first time this season, and Cal was able to build a lead and stave off the Trojans for a 10-8 win in this early-season test. USC is now 8-1 overall after today's action and will face Pacific in the third-place game tomorrow (Sept. 25) in Berkeley.
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 fourth week.
USC manufactured a five-goal scoring rally to put visiting No. 7 UC Santa Barbara out of reach in the first half before tightening up its defense in the second to lock down a 16-6 win over the Gauchos at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Blake Edwards scored three goals for the Trojans during that crucial five-goal surge and later tacked up the final goal of the half. That last strike by Edwards registered the junior’s 100th career goal as a Trojan, making him the 33rd USC player to join the 100-goal club at Troy. The scoring would settle down in the second half while the USC defense went on lockdown, shutting out UCSB in the fourth to finish out the win. UC Santa Barbara went toe-to-toe with the Trojans in the first 10 minutes of play. The Gauchos struck on their first two possessions to force USC to play catchup. Matteo Morelli and Lachlan Edwards had an answer for those early UCSB scores, and then Thomas Dunstan rifled in a go-ahead goal for the Trojan cause. Twice more, UC Santa Barbara would level the score, equalizing at 4-4 early in the second period for a wakeup call that the Trojans would finally heed. Zach D’Sa broke the game open with a near-impossible score to make it 5-4. He’d follow that up with a counterattack finish off a feed from Nick Bell next, and USC was off to the races. Blake Edwards had warmed up in the first frame with his opening goal of the day and then he got right back to work. Three straight goals came next from the Aussie as he kept USC’s scoring rally intact to a 9-4 Trojan advantage. UCSB would break up the run next, but the Edwards brothers would have the last words of the half. Dunstan issued his fourth assist of the half in a setup to Lachlan Edwards at center in the final minute of the half, and then Blake Edwards finished off USC’s final play of the half with a nifty lob that made it 11-5 Trojans and notched his 100th career goal. The second half would largely play out as defensive battle. USC goalie McQuin Baron stepped up for a pile of saves in the second half as he finished out the game with 10 stops in the cage. James Walters would interrupt the Gaucho gameplan with several steals, and the Trojans would give up just one trickling goal in the second half of play. Meanwhile, three Trojans joined the scoresheet while Dunstan nailed his second goal and D’Sa put the finishing touches on a hat trick for himself. For the 15th game this year, USC shut out its opponent in at least one period of play. This time the Trojans left their defensive shutout to the final frame, and USC turned a 13-6 advantage into a 16-6 final score by the final buzzer.
The No. 6 49ers are 11-5 overall with one game to play at UC Santa Barbara before hosting USC this weekend. Last week, Long Beach State beat San Diego 10-6 and Pepperdine 7-4. Nolan McConnell enters the week as LBSU’s top scorer with 31 goals. Goalie Thomas Freeman is averaging 10.0 saves and 7.3 goals-against per game in his 14 appearances. USC is 66-15 all-time against the 49ers with wins in the past 27 meetings after a 9-4 win last month at the Mountain Pacific Invite. Last year, USC beat LBSU 17-9 in an MPSF matchup. Long Beach State has since left the MPSF to join the new Golden Coast Conference.
VAVIC HITS 500 (AGAIN)
The Trojans’ 15-1 start to the 2016 season now has Jovan Vavic gripping 509 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 16 games into 2016, the Trojans continue to pin up some powerful numbers. Led by 32 goals from junior Blake Edwards and 26 from fellow junior and younger brother Lachlan Edwards, the USC offense has clicked off 259 goals to date. Defensively, the Trojans have allowed no more than four goals in all but three games, while shutting out opponents in 27 periods, including at least one shutout frame in every game but one this year and standing a perfect 15-0 in such game performances. In all, USC has outscored opponents 259-64. Goalie McQuin Baron has capped up in the cage in 15 games and is averaging 10.6 saves and just 3.9 goals-against per game. As a team, USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in defense (4.0 gapg) and in offense (16.19 gig).
With his fifth goal of the first half against UC Santa Barbara — on 5-for-5 shooting, no less — junior Blake Edwards became the 33rd Trojan to hit 100 goals in his USC career. He’s one of five current Trojans who entered the year with that USC Century Club on their radars, but he because the first to hit the 100 mark with that five-goal performance on Oct. 16. Edwards’ effort also helped secure his first career selection as MPSF Player of the Week on Oct. 17.
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 him recently rise to USC’s No. 2 all-time saves leader. On Oct. 7, Baron made the move to No. 2, and he now holds 705 career saves. The record-holder at Troy is Cutino Award winner and four-time NCAA champ Joel Dennerley, who collected 855 saves from 2008-11. And now that Blake Edwards hit the century mark on Oct. 16, there are four Trojans closing the gap on the 100-goal club at Troy. Grant Stein (98 goals), Matteo Morelli (97), Lachlan Edwards (97) and Nick Bell (88) all are within reach of breaking the century mark this year. Stay tuned!
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 11-goal effort across three USC wins. 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 a 26-1 win over La Verne. It was the first MPSF weekly award for Edwards, but he didn’t take long to gather another. The junior snagged the Oct. 3 selection as well after scoring seven goals across three games, including a hat trick in a win over No. 4 Pacific.
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 three goals in USC’s first six games before delivering six for the Trojans in Berkeley.
DASIC DRUMS UP WEEKLY HONORS
Freshman Marin Dasic issued four goals across two USC wins and picked up his first career honors as a Trojan with this week’s selection as MPSF Newcomer of the Week on Oct. 10. Dasic struck twice for the Trojans in a 15-4 win over No. 7 Pepperdine before tacking up two more goals in a win at No. 17 UC Irvine two days later. Dasic entered the week averaging less than a goal a game before breaking out with two in each victory.
For this 2016 season, USC welcomes back every one of its eight All-Americans, and only one of them — Nick Bell — is a senior. What’s more, USC has all but two members of its 2015 NCAA Tournament roster back on active duty for 2016. 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.
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.
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 from 2015 are all also classmates: the Edwards brothers, Stein and Morelli.
USC’s youth movement remains solid. In their first season of work as Trojans, Zach D’Sa and Chase Koplow combined for 32 goals last year, and both were members of USC’s 2015 NCAA Tournament roster. They have provided 11 and 8 goals, respectively, in 2016 so far. USC is further bolstered by a group of talented new Trojans. Clearly, 2016 Olympian Thomas Dunstan already brings in some serious credentials for his freshman campaign, but several other USC newcomers have proven their power to date along with a few Trojans who redshirted last season. True freshmen Marin Dasic (15 goals) and Dunstan (17) are the top scorers of that new crew so far. Freshman Matt Maier is close behind with 13 goals, while redshirt freshmen Daniel Leong (12) and Sam Slobodien (11) clock in next. Adding to the influx of new talent are goalies Simon Wu and Will Rubschlager, who have checked in for four games each.
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.
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.
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.
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.