Men's Water Polo
    No. 2 USC Visits LMU On Thursday, Hosts Pacific On Saturday

    Lachlan Edwards and the Trojans take on LMU and Pacific this week.
    Oct. 22, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    No. 2 USC (16-3, 2-1 MPSF) stays local this week with two games on the docket. First up is a visit to No. 16 Loyola Marymount (5-12) for a nonconference tilt at 4 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 23) in Westchester. After that, the Trojans turn back to MPSF action for another battle against No. 8 Pacific (12-7, 0-2). This time, the rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game comes to Troy, as USC lines up to host the Tigers at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 25) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

    THE LAST MEETING
    Loyola Marymount4
    USC17
    October 19, 2013
    Uytengsu Aquatics Center
    THE LAST MEETING
    Pacific3
    USC10
    September 7, 2014
    San Diego, Calif.
    No. 2 USC Swamps No. 5 Pacific and Redlands In San Diego
    The No. 2 USC men's water polo team got to test the waters of the site of this year's NCAA Championships with early-season action at the Triton Invitational, hosted by UC San Diego this weekend. By all accounts, the Trojans -- who boast a large group of newcomers for 2014 -- passed with flying colors. Two big wins on day one were followed by a 27-7 victory over Redlands and a 10-3 win over No. 5 Pacific today. The afternoon tilt against the Tigers presented a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game, which USC won in overtime to claim a sixth consecutive national championship. The 2014 Trojans are now 4-0 overall after their first weekend of work.

    WATCH USC AT LMU LIVE ONLINE

    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 was at No. 4 for three weeks. The Trojans worked back to the No. 1 slot last week, but are at No. 2 as of this week's national poll.

    SCOUTING LMU
    The No. 16 Lions are 5-12 overall after beating Redlands 10-5 last week. Emanuel Di Stasio is LMU's top scorer with 25 goals to date. Goalie Dominick Beaudine averages 9.3 saves and 10.9 goals against per game. USC is a perfect 22-0 all-time against LMU after posting 21-7 and 17-4 wins over the Lions last year.

    SCOUTING PACIFIC
    The No. 8 Tigers are 12-7 overall and 0-2 in MPSF play after a 17-10 loss to UC Irvine last week. Ben Stevenson leads Pacific in scoring with 44 goals to date. Goalie Brady Moore averages 11.3 saves and 8.8 goals against per game. USC is 46-8 all-time against Pacific, holding wins in the last three meetings, including last year's 12-11 overtime victory over the Tigers in the 2013 NCAA Championship game. USC also beat Pacific 10-3 earlier this season at the Triton Invitational.

    LAST WEEK
    USC put forth a ferocious comeback in a MPSF matchup against No. 3 Stanford, but the home Cardinal was able to come up with the late-game winner and hand No. 1 USC an 11-10 loss in Palo Alto. The Trojans trailed by three late in the third period, but rallied back to tie it up. The game stayed locked entering the final minute of play until Stanford finished off one last power play to take an 11-10 lead that would stand to the final whistle. USC never led in the game, but did force the issue several times. The Cardinal and Trojans were neck-and-neck through the first period, as USC had Kostas Genidounias and Max Hurst-Mendoza tally equalizers for the USC cause in that first frame. In the second, however, Stanford streaked ahead as USC came up empty on the other end. Three straight Stanford goals put USC in a 5-2 hole, forcing the Trojans to find an offensive spark. Trailing again by three late in the third, Rex Butler would get to a hat trick before the close of the frame to bring USC back within two, trailing 8-6 entering the fourth frame. In the fourth, sophomore Nick Bell went big with back-to-back strikes, joining his senior teammates in the scoring column to bring his Trojans even with the Cardinal for the first time since the first period of play. And still, Stanford had goals at the ready. The Cardinal would go up 9-8, but Bell broke right back and made it 9-9 with his third goal of the frame. Again, Stanford edged ahead, and again USC had an answer, this one a searing score from Butler for his fourth of the day. With it snarled at 10-10 entering the final minute, Stanford snagged back the lead with 41 ticks to go, and USC nailed the bar at the other end to finish just inches away from overtime and wind up with the 11-10 defeat.

    BELL GOES BIG
    Sophomore Nick Bell had a career weekend in helping USC win the SoCal Tournament championship, totaling 10 goals over the four Trojan victories over that weekend. For his standout performance, Bell earned his first career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week on Oct. 13, becoming the first Trojan to win the award this year. In just his second game back from injury, Bell delivered his first career hat trick in USC's opening win over Air Force. He'd tally another goal in USC's next win over UC Santa Barbara. The following day, Bell went even bigger. The sophomore punched in four goals in USC's semifinal upset of host UCLA to mark a new career high for himself and set up his Trojans for the title match. There, Bell added two more goals to help USC edge out Cal 10-9 and win the Trojans' third straight SoCal Tournament crown.

    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. In four of USC's nine championship season, the Trojans have taken three or more total losses.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Now 19 games into 2014, the Trojans have been putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 56 goals, Matteo Morelli with 30 and Rex Butler and Grant Stein with 29 each, there are a grand total of 12 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 297-121 -- almost triple its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.37 goals per game, having held opponents scoreless in the third quarter in six 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. Named the 2014 KAP7 NorCal Classic MVP last month, he's the Trojans' top scorer this season with 56 goals to date, giving him 235 in his career to take sole possession of No. 2 all-time in career scoring. Nikola Vavic stands at No. 1 with 254 career goals. That puts Genidounias 19 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 was calling it a "rebuilding year." Everybody, that is, except USC head coach Jovan Vavic. His group of 22 newcomers for 2014 looks to be built to last. Nine of those freshmen have already logged some serious minutes in the early goings of the 2014 season. 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 posting 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. 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. In all, seven USC freshmen have combined for 139 total goals to date, while the entirety of the goalkeeping duties has been handled by freshmen Baron and Goncharenko.

    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. This year, Bell was sidelined for the first 11 games but has jumped right back in full force. Bell, Carden and USC's senior crew of Butler, Genidounias, Max Hurst-Mendoza and Vonderweidt have combined for 144 goals to date. What's more, Butler is now just two goals away from scoring his 100th career goal as a Trojan.

    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 coach 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. Fellow freshman Ben Goncharenko also has proven his worth handily. USC has been in capable hands with Goncharenko as a backup and as a starter. He boasts a complete shutout of Occidental, and averages 5.3 saves and 4.9 goals-against per game in his eight appearances. Baron, meanwhile, has capped up in 15 games, hauling in 10.6 saves per game and allowing 6.4 goals-against per game.

    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. •