No. 2 USC Wraps Regular Season At No. 6 UC Irvine
A win could secure the No. 2 seed for the Trojans in next week's MPSF Tournament.
Nov. 17, 2010
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No. 2 USC sets up for its final regular-season game of the year as the Trojans close down MPSF action with a road trip to visit No. 6 UC Irvine. The Trojans (22-2, 5-3 MPSF) can sew up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming MPSF Tournament with a win against the Anteaters (16-6, 4-3) in their Saturday (Nov. 20) match at 12 p.m. in Irvine, Calif., as long as top-ranked California beats Stanford in their regular-season finale on Friday.
After sitting at No. 4 for the first two weeks of the year and a brief stint at No. 3, the back-to-back NCAA champs took over the top spot in the land and held it for four weeks running. With the Oct. 16 loss to Cal, the Trojans moved to No. 2, where they remain this week. UC Irvine is ranked No. 6 in this week's poll.
SCOUTING UC IRVINE
The No. 6 Anteaters are 16-6 overall and 4-3 in MPSF play after beating UC Santa Barbara 7-6 last week. Brandon Johnson and Griffen Lerman lead UCI in scoring, having combined for 80 goals so far this year. Goalie Matt Johnson is averaging 7.3 saves and 7.8 gaols against per game. USC is 64-23 all-time against UC Irvine, holding a 17-game winning streak that includes a 14-10 Trojan win during this year's NorCal Tournament.
USC grabbed a pair of road wins last week -- one a 7-6 nonconference victory over No. 10 Pepperdine, and the other a 10-4 MPSF win over No. 9 Long Beach State. Against the Waves, USC got ahead 7-3 early in the third period before Pepperdine managed to close in and make it a one-goal game. On the Waves' final possession with a chance to equalize, Tobias Preuss put up a field block with one second to go to wrap up the tight win for the Trojans. Six players scored for USC, with Peter Kurzeka leading with two.Against the 49ers in an MPSF matchup, Nikola Vavic's hat trick led the way for the USC offense at Long Beach State as the Trojans answered an early 1-1 lockup with a five-goal run to put the Beach behind 6-1. Joel Dennerley picked up eight saves in goal during each contest.
ON THE RISE
USC junior Joel Dennerley has snagged two picks as the MPSF Player of the Week so far this season. Over the Sept. 11-12 weekend, he had a total of 17 saves in six periods played in wins over Long Beach State and LMU, including a second-half shutout vs. the Lions. At the SoCal Tournament, Dennerley secured his sixth career Player of the Week honor after a dominating 15-save effort against UCLA in the championship match to help USC to its eighth straight SoCal Tournament title. With his season saves stand to date, Dennerley has climbed in the USC record books and just recently took over the No. 6 all-time position in career saves. He now holds 577 career saves to date, and is again heading up the charge for the Trojans as the top defensive team in the nation ---- an achievement held by USC for several seasons now. The USC defense is averaging 6.13 goals-against per game.
KURZEKA CRUSHES THE COMPETITION
Junior Peter Kurzeka put in a big day's work on the final day of play at the NorCal Tournament, scoring seven goals - including the game-winning goals - in two games to help power the No. 3 Trojans to two upsets en route to the winning the tournament championships. For his efforts, Kurzeka was named the MPSF Mikasa Player of the Week, marking the second straight week that a Trojan has picked up the honor. Kurzeka scored four goals against top-ranked host California in the NorCal Tournament semifinal, finishing off the Bears by getting USC up 12-10 in the fourth in an eventual 12-11 win to get USC into the title match. In a rematch of the 2009 NCAA Championship, Kurzeka scored three goals against No. 2 UCLA, including the game-winner with four seconds remaining for an 11-10 USC victory. That kept the Trojans undefeated on the year with an 8-0 record. Kurzeka is now third on the team in scoring with 29 goals to date.
The Trojan offense leads the MPSF in averaging 13.38 goals per game, but there's really no one player to point to as USC's go-to guy this year. A program-record 21 different players have gotten to the back of the net this year, and six different players are averaging at least a goal a game. Freshmen Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie have combined for 73 goals, with junior Peter Kurzeka at 29 and newcomer Mace Rapsey holding 27 alongside junior Matt Burton. Another newcomer, Tobias Preuss, is next with 24 ahead of returners Michael Rosenthal and Brian Boswell's 21 and 20 goals, respectively, to further highlight USC's overwhelming mix of new and veteran talent.
Opponents got to know USC's newest Trojans pretty quickly this year, and are still hard-pressed to find a way to stop USC's powerful group of newcomers. A set of powerful imports have made splash, as Australians Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey are joined by German Tobias Preuss for their first seasons as Trojans. Cem Carak hails from Turkey and is back from a redshirt season last year. Meanwhile, USC has a powerful blend of true and redshirt freshmen welcomed into the fold. Andy Hayes, Tommy Friedrich and Stephen Siri all redshirted the 2009 season to build up power for 2010. That crew is bolstered by more true freshmen out of the USA -- Rex Butler, Max Hurst-Mendoza, Nikola Vavic and Connor Virjee -- and every new player in the mix this year has scored at least 10 goals for the Trojans to date.
ON THE BOARD
USC's opening weekend was a chance for the Trojan newcomers to make a statement in their debut. Redshirt freshman Stephen Siri led the charge with hat trick to kick off his Trojan career. Also in their first USC action, Tobias Preuss and Mace Rapsey each added a pair, with fellow newcomers Nikola Vavic and Rex Butler also getting in on the scoring action against Redlands. The following day, freshmen Jeremy Davie, Max Hurst-Mendoza and Connor Virjee all notched their first goals as Trojans in the win over Whittier, while redshirt sophomore goalie Jimmy Friedrich saw his first time in the cage after being sidelined by injuries.
BACK IN ACTION
USC returns three players who boast NCAA title-winning experience. All three juniors have known nothing but national championship runs in their time as Trojans. All-American goalie Joel Dennerley also has fellow All-American Peter Kurzeka and their fellow junior Matt Burton back as the backbone of USC roster. It's a young group, but this year's batch of Trojans have already experience USC's winning tradition. Including junior two-time NCAA champs Burton, Dennerley and Kurzeka, USC has Brian Boswell and Michael Rosenthal returning from the Trojans' latest NCAA visit. Goalie Will Simon and field players Zayne Belal, Billy Evashwick, Mason Hawthorne, Forest Monroe, Jon Leopold and Andrew Reego also saw game action in the 2009 regular season and are back in the water for 2010.
MAKE IT EIGHT
USC put a flashy exclamation point on its 15th straight win of the season, serving up a tight 9-8 win over crosstown rival No. 2 UCLA to rack up the Trojans' eighth consecutive SoCal Tournament championship. Joel Dennerley made a statement in stopping two 5-meter penalty shots to help USC stay ahead of the Bruins. Still, the game wound up locked up 8-8 in the final minute, until Nikola Vavic ducked past his defender and scored for USC to jump ahead 9-8 with 35 ticks to go. With the Bruins on the hunt to equalize, a slight overpass was sucked in by Dennerley for a takeaway that helped wrap up the win for the Trojans. The matchup with host UCLA was a rematch of both the 2009 NCAA championship as well as this season's NorCal Tournament championship game, both of which the Trojans also won over the Bruins in one-goal decisions. USC topped Redlands 22-5 and Long Beach State 17-5 on the first day of play, and faced UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals the next morning. USC trailed the Gauchos 5-4 entering the fourth period, but pulled back to equalize and got the game-winner in the final minute from Jeremy Davie to get a 7-6 victory for a chance to set up defense of the Trojans' eighth straight SoCal Tournament crown. Dennerley was named MPSF Player of the Week for his impressive 15-save performance against UCLA in the title match.
After passing up Navy 15-6 and beating UC Irvine 14-10 to open the NorCal Tournament, USC kicked off the second day with a win over top-seeded host Cal before taking down UCLA in the title match. Up 2-1 in the first period against then-No. 1 Cal, the Trojans rocked the Bears with six goals in the second frame to jump ahead 8-4 at halftime. Cal would shake things up by roaring back with an equally big third period to close the gap, pushing the game to a 10-10 lockup entering the fourth period. With the game up in the air in the fourth, USC got ahead 11-10 when Nikola Vavic converted on a 5-meter penalty shot. With 5:52 to go, Peter Kurzeka notched his fourth goal of the game to punch the Trojans ahead 12-10. Cal would score to make it a one-goal game with 1:31 to go, and had a shot at equalizing late in the match, only to have USC goalie Joel Dennerley make the stop with six seconds left and lock down the win for USC. Up against rival UCLA in the afternoon's championship game - a rematch of the 2009 NCAA championship - the Trojans again built up a healthy lead on their opponents. USC allowed just two Bruin goals in the first half while taking a 5-2 lead by halftime. Entering the final frame, USC was up 8-4, but UCLA forced its way back into the game in the fourth period. The Bruins managed six goals in the period as the teams were locked 10-10 with time draining. With four seconds to go, however, Kurzeka struck again, rounding out a hat trick for himself in the game and punching USC ahead 11-10 to shut things down on the NorCal Tournament championship for the Trojans.
USC graduated a large group from last year's NCAA championship squad, eight of whom were members of both USC's title-winning rosters. Those departed 2009 seniors with back-to-back NCAA crowns are: Anthony Artukovich, Shea Buckner, J.W. Krumpholz, Justin Rappel, Matt Sagehorn, Nico Sardo, Kyle Sterling and Jordan Thompson.
The 2009 Trojans claimed back-to-back national championships for the first time in program history with a 7-6 win over UCLA in last season's NCAA title match. The Trojans also made history as the first team ever to make five straight NCAA final appearances on the way to wrapping up the year as champs with a 26-2 overall record. It was USC's 24th NCAA appearance and fifth national championship. Jovan Vavic was named the National Coach of the Year, and senior J.W. Krumpholz was the National Player of the Year as well as the eventual Cutino Award winner for the second straight year. Eight Trojans earned All-American honors, and 19 different players scored on the year. For the fifth straight year, USC led the nation in team defense (5.5 gapg), while the offense averaged 11.3 gpg. All told, USC outscored its opponents 316-154 in 2009.