Men's Water Polo
    Crosstown Splashdown: USC and UCLA Meet Again, This Time At Troy

    The Trojans defend their home pool against the visiting Bruins at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
    Oct. 29, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    No. 3 USC (18-3, 3-1 MPSF) stays home this week to set up for a bigtime battle against crosstown rival No. 1 UCLA (21-2, 5-0). The Trojans and the Bruins will tangle in a SoCal BMW Crosstown Cup matchup that weighs heavily in the MPSF race. The showdown is set for 7 p.m. next Sunday (Nov. 2) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center and will be televised on Pac-12 Networks, with Chris Dorst and Jim Watson on the call.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC10
    UCLA (Semifinal)6
    October 12, 2014
    Westwood, Calif.
    No. 4 USC Dominates UCLA In Westwood In SoCal Semifinal
    The No. 4 USC men's water polo team blazed a trail to the SoCal Tournament title match with a knockout punch of top-seeded tournament host and crosstown rival UCLA today in the semifinals. The Trojans shrugged off the Bruins' early advantage and drilled six straight goals leave UCLA on the ropes. USC would lead by as much as six, and the game wrapped as a 10-6 Trojan victory. Now. 15-2 overall with revenge over rival UCLA in the books, the Trojans could be looking for some more vengeance next as they set up to face either No. 2 Stanford or No. 3 California in the championship

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    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 for the week of Oct. 13, but are at No. 3 as of this week's national poll.

    SCOUTING UCLA
    The No. 1 Bruins are 21-2 overall and 5-0 in MPSF play after a 7-6 win over Stanford last week. Cristiano Mirarchi and Paul Reynolds lead UCLA in scoring with 37 and 36 goals, respectively. Goalie Garrett Danner averages 10.4 saves and 5.8 goals against per game. USC is 65-47-1 all-time against UCLA, with a season split so far this year. The Bruins beat the Trojans 9-7 in the 2014 KAP7 NorCal Classic semifinals in September, and USC answered with a 10-6 win over UCLA in the SoCal Tournament semifinal in Westwood on Oct. 12. The last time USC and UCLA clashed at Troy was in the 2012 NCAA Championship game, when the Trojans overcame a three-goal deficit to beat the Bruins 11-10 and win a fifth consecutive national title.

    LAST WEEK
    USC got back in winning mode with two decisive wins last week, beating No. 18 LMU 19-7 on the road before returning to Uytengsu Aquatics Center for an 11-6 win over No. 8 Pacific in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game. The Trojans were a force to reckon with on the offensive end throughout at LMU and got downright stingy on defense in the second half of play. The Lions scored the first goal of the day, only to see the Trojans fire back and eventually muster up a seven-goal surge well out of reach of their hosts. Four Trojans finished with at least three goals, paced by Kostas Genidounias' four-goal outing to creep the senior ever closer to the No. 1 all-time career scoring spot. Two days later, USC again was in control for the duration of an MPSF clash with Pacific. The rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game was a far cry from last year's title match, as the Trojans kept the Tigers at bay down the stretch for a final 11-6 victory. With the second goal of the day, USC senior Rex Butler rang up the 100th goal of his Trojan career, while helping propel USC along to victory. Seniors Butler and Genidounias were the driving offensive force for the Trojans in the first half, accounting for the first three goals in USC's 3-0 start. A 5-meter penalty shot granted Pacific first goal of the game, but Genidounias promptly padded back the lead with a ripper from distance to notch a hat trick for himself just four minutes after Butler had hit the century mark. The perimeter attack from Butler and Genidounias helped open up the inside game for the Trojans, and freshman Lachlan Edwards took full advantage. Edwards would finish up with his second straight hat trick, while Genidounias' second consecutive four-goal effort pumped the senior's career tally up to 243 -- now 11 goals shy of the No. 1 all-time mark.

    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. With 17 goals scored in his eight appearances, Bell is currently averaging 2.13 goals per game for the Trojan cause.

    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 21 games into 2014, the Trojans have been putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 64 goals, Rex Butler and Matteo Morelli with 32 each, Grant Stein with 31 and Lachlan Edwards with 29, there are a grand total of 12 Trojans 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 337-134 -- almost triple its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.73 goals per game, having held opponents scoreless in the third quarter in seven 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 64 goals to date, giving him 243 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 11 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 154 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 159 goals to date. What's more, Butler just nailed his 100th career goal over the weekend, becoming the 32nd Trojan to hit the mark.

    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 5.5 saves and 4.8 goals-against per game in his nine appearances. Baron, meanwhile, has capped up in 18 games, hauling in 10.6 saves per game and allowing 6.7 goals-against per game.

    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.

    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. •