Men's Water Polo
    No. 1 USC Packs Up For No. 3 Pacific
    The Trojans defend their undefeated MPSF mark at Pacific on Saturday.
    The Trojans defend their undefeated MPSF mark at Pacific on Saturday.

    Oct. 30, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 1 USC men's water polo team digs deeper into MPSF action this week with a crucial visit to Pacific. The Trojans will tangle with the No. 3 Tigers at 12 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 2) in Stockton. USC is battling to remain the only team undefeated in MPSF play to date.

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    RANKINGS
    USC is back as the nation's No. 1 team after four weeks at No. 2. The Trojans had been ranked No. 1 from Nov. 9, 2011, through to Sept. 25, 2013, until a Sept. 22 loss to UCLA snapped a 41-game winning streak held by the Trojans. On Oct. 13, however, USC avenged that loss to the Bruins and the Trojans jumped back to the top of the national rankings. The Trojans remain No. 1 this week, and Pacific is ranked No. 3.

    SCOUTING PACIFIC
    The No. 3 Tigers are 15-3 overall and 2-1 in MPSF play after a 12-10 loss to UCLA last week. Balasz Erdelyi leads Pacific in scoring with 3.3 goals per game, while goalkeeper Alex Malkis is averaging 12.7 saves and 8.0 goals against per game. USC is 43-7 all-time against the Tigers with wins in the past 16 straight meetings, including USC's 10-6 win over Pacific earlier this month in the SoCal Tournament semifinals. Last year, USC beat Pacific 16-6 during their MPSF match last season in Los Angeles.

    LAST WEEK
    USC turned a high-scoring affair to its favor last weekend as the Trojans outgunned their No. 6 host UC Santa Barbara to the tune of a 16-10 win. Connor Virjee was USC's top gun on the day with a career-high five goals for the Trojan cause. Both teams came out of the gates with guns blazing, with 10 goals scored in the first frame alone. The Trojans tallied the first three thanks to Jeremy Davie, Kostas Genidounias and Virjee. UCSB got one to go three minutes in, and made it 4-2 midway through the period, but USC goalie James Clark put up a wall in the cage on the Gauchos next-best chance, slamming down a 5-meter penalty try to keep USC in command. Mace Rapsey delivered soon after for the Trojans to make it a 5-2 USC lead, although the Gauchos would creep to within one before Virjee's third of the day made it a 6-4 USC lead entering the second frame. There, the teams would stay tight, as UCSB cut it two a one-goal margin twice more. It was a trim 8-7 USC advantage just one minute away from halftime until Rapsey struck again with 32 seconds left to put USC up 9-7 at the break. USC's defense would lock down in the second half, though, allowing just a single Gaucho goal in the third while Genidounias punched in a pair and Nikola Vavic got in on the action for a 12-8 USC lead entering the fourth. The Trojans kept coming offensively with four more goals. UCSB was awarded its third penalty shot of the day in that frame, converting that chance with five minutes remaining, but USC was well in control by that time and the Trojans wrapped up a 16-10 decision. Connor Virjee would go on to be named the MPSF Player of the Week for his five-goal outing against the Gauchos.

    SOCAL SUCCESS
    The Trojans successfully -- and dramatically -- defended their SoCal Tournament title with a run to the 2013 championship in Irvine. USC opened the tourney with a 13-4 win over St. Francis Brooklyn and a 14-7 win over Long Beach State to move into the next day's semifinals. There, USC shrugged off an upset-minded Pacific squad with a 10-6 victory to set up a rematch with rival No. 1 UCLA in the title match. The Tigers struck first in the semi tilt, and the teams traded goals for a stretch to a 3-3 lockup before the Trojans bucked that trend with a run of three that saw Ivan Kustic, Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic score in succession to take USC to a 5-3 advantage. That goal from Vavic would lock the senior in as USC's all-time scoring leader, breaking him out of a tie-up with Juraj Zatovic to give Vavic sole possession of Numero Uno with his 221st career goal. With that milestone in the books, the Trojans settled out and stayed largely in control down the stretch. Blasts from Kostas Genidounias and Mace Rapsey bumped USC to a 7-4 halftime lead, and the Trojans would pitch a defensive shutout in the third to further flex their authority to a 9-4 lead advantage entering the fourth frame. There, the Tigers would manage a pair of goals, but not before Genidounias rang up his fourth of the game to net USC its 10th goal of the match, and the game would wrap up with USC in control of a 10-6 victory. That put USC in another tournament title match against crosstown rival UCLA. The Bruins thought they were going to get away unscathed, but the Trojans were not going to let that happen today. Aside from Vavic's opening goal, the Trojans didn't ever lead during regulation play. USC trailed UCLA by two at the end of the first, second and third periods, and were down 10-7 with 4:08 to go when the Trojans kicked back into high gear. Connor Virjee sparked a three-goal USC run with his power play strike with 3:04 to go in regulation. Vavic delivered next with another 6-on-5 score to cut it to a one-goal game, and Rapsey plugged in the equalizer with 1:30 on the clock. UCLA took back the lead 30 seconds later, but Genidounias punched in the buzzer-beater much to the Bruins' dismay to force overtime. The first overtime frame would pass scorelessly, but Genidounias generated the go-ahead goal for the Trojans at the 1:51 mark of the second, notching his fourth of the game. UCLA got up on a 6-on-5 advantage late in the game, but USC goalie James Clark was up to the challenge and posted a huge block to put the finishing touch on USC's comeback surge with a 12-11 OT win to tally another SoCal Tournament title for the Trojans.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Twenty-one games into 2013, the Trojans are putting up some big numbers. Led by Nikola Vavic with 58 goals, Kostas Genidounias with 56, Connor Virjee with 39 and Mace Rapsey with 29, USC has outscored opponents 363-112 -- more than tripling its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 5.3 goals per game and has held opponents scoreless in 22 periods of regulation play so far, including 11 games where the Trojans shut out opponents in the first period. USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in offense (17.29 gpg) and No. 2 in defense (5.3 gapg).

    CAREER COUNTER
    Nikola Vavic entered 2013 in the books ranked No. 4 all-time in USC scoring history. After last weekend's run to the SoCal Tournament championship, Vavic has taken over the No. 1 spot, previously occupied by Juraj Zatovic since 2005. Vavic is creating some extra space at the top now, holding 231 career goals and counting. 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. 8 all-time with 155 goals -- having broken into the top-10 on Oct. 19 -- and Davie ranks No. 22 with 119 to date. Senior Mace Rapsey joined those teammates in the century club on Oct. 12, as the junior now has 105 career goals to rank No. 28 all-time, having edged out current USC head assistant coach Marko Pintaric, who scored 103 during his Trojan career.

    COUNT ONE FOR KOSTAS
    Kostas Genidounias became the first Trojan this year to be named MPSF Player of the Week after going big for the Trojans in their run to the 2013 SoCal Tournament title. Genidounias was USC's top scorer and the deliverer of the overtime game-winner in the championship game victory over the Bruins. He scored four goals in the title match against No. 1 UCLA, including the buzzer-beater to force overtime and then scoring the lone goal in the second OT to earn the Trojans the comeback win to take home the title. Genidounias also provided four goals in USC's semifinal victory over No. 3 Pacific. On day one, Genidounias scored three vs. St. Francis Brooklyn and two against Long Beach State. He'd finish the tourney with 13 total goals as the Trojans won their second straight SoCal crown and improved their overall record to 17-1 in avenging their only loss of the year with this OT win over the Bruins. The 13-goal weekend also bumped Genidounias up to within one goal of breaking into USC's all-time top-10 scoring list. He's now No. 8 with 152 career goals. Genidounias was last named MPSF Player of the Week on Sept. 24, 2012.

    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 experienced only one 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. •