No. 1 USC Takes A Stand Against No. 7 UC Irvine
Nov. 18, 2009
THIS WEEK: Top-ranked USC wraps up the regular season this weekend in the same waters that postseason play will take place next week -- the friendly confines of the Trojans' own McDonald's Swim Stadium. USC's undefeated MPSF record is on the line this week, as well as a 38-game home winning streak, as the Trojans (21-1, 7-0 MPSF) host UC Irvine (15-10, 3-4) in a 12 p.m. conference clash on Saturday (Nov. 21). Before the game, USC will honor its outstanding group of outgoing seniors in a Senior Day ceremony on the pool deck.
RANKINGS: USC is at the No. 1 spot in the nation for the sixth consecutive week after having been at No. 3 for three weeks. UC Irvine is ranked No. 7 this week.
SCOUTING UC IRVINE: The No. 7 Anteaters are 15-10 overall and 3-4 in MPSF play after going five overtime periods against Pepperdine and taking a 15-14 loss, and then beating UC Santa Barbara 9-7 last week. Cole Bielskis leads UC Irvine in scoring with 44 goals and goalie Matt Johnson averages 7.0 saves and 6.8 goals against per game. USC is 62-23 all-time against the Anteaters, having won the past 14 straight games against UCI including an 11-4 win earlier this season.
LAST WEEK: USC stayed on a winning surge with a key win over No. 3 Stanford last week, as the Trojans played out their first overtime game of the year and pinned up a 13-12 victory over the Cardinal at USC's home pool. The win took the Trojans' overall win streak out to 14 straight, while holding them undefeated in MPSF play and undefeated at home for 38 consecutive games. Jordan Thompson and Justin Rappel led the way with career highs of four goals apiece for USC, with Rappel scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. A high-scoring fourth period saw USC take a late lead in regulation with a score from Rappel to make it 12-11 Trojans with 10 seconds to go, but Stanford earned a 6-on-5 for its final possession and managed the equalizer to force overtime. That's where the Trojan defense took over once again, silencing the Cardinal while Rappel punched in a score for USC two minutes into the first overtime for a score that would stand as the winner for the Trojans in their first overtime situation of the season. Jordan Thompson was named MPSF co-Player of the Week for his four goals and five earned ejections in the game.
PICK SIX: To date, USC leads the conference in MPSF Player of the Week selections with six total. Five different Trojans have picked up the weekly honor, led by a pair of awards for goalie Joel Dennerley. Peter Kurzeka, Justin Rappel, Kyle Sterling and Jordan Thompson have each earned their first career MPSF Player of the Week accolades this season, while Dennerley holds four total to his name in his two seasons so far at Troy.
YOUNG GUNS: Although the stellar senior class of Trojans seem to get the bulk of the attention, the season's first MPSF honors went to a pair of players with some extra eligibility in the books. Sophomore Peter Kurzeka grabbed his first career honor as an MPSF Player of the Week after leading USC with eight goals as the Trojans successfully defended their title at the Triton Invitational. Kurzeka served up three multiple-goal games at the tournament, including two goals in the championship win over #7 UC Santa Barbara and two vs. #6 LMU to help push USC into the final, making it a four-goal day on the last day of competition in San Diego. More recently, redshirt junior Kyle Sterling picked up his first career conference honor as the MPSF Player of the Week after a career-high three-goal effort and an added assist in USC's 14-8 win over Pepperdine.
CENTURY CLUB AND CLIMBING: USC seniors J.W. Krumpholz and Matt Sagehorn have not only chiseled their place in USC history as national champions and All-Americans, the two Trojans also have passed the century mark in career goals. Both recently busted into the all-time top-20, with Krumpholz now alone at No. 13 with 127, and Sagehorn just steps behind at No. 15 with 122. Early this year, both players leapt over current assistant coach Marko Pintaric's total of 103.
BETTER BALANCE: For an example of the Trojans' widespread scoring prowess, look no further than USC's 8-6 win over Cal at the NorCal Tournament. Eight different Trojans scored in the game -- one apiece for a USC squad that has seen 19 players score on the year and seven different Trojans holding at least 20 goals so far. Through the first 12 games of the year, no one had scored more than three goals in a single game, until J.W. Krumpholz hit five against Princeton and Shea Bucker had four against UC Santa Barbara. In total, seven different Trojans can attest to at least one hat trick to date.
HOME POOL ADVANTAGE: USC finished off the 2008 home season holding a 33-game win streak in the home waters of McDonald's Swim Stadium, having gone undefeated at home for four straight seasons. That count is up to 38 after the overtime win over Stanford as the Trojans go in pursuit of their fifth consecutive perfect run at home.
SEWING UP SOCAL: In the 2009 edition of the SoCal Tournament -- this year hosted by UC Irvine as the UCI Invitational -- USC worked its way to its seventh straight SoCal crown. USC first topped Bucknell 21-4, and then Shea Buckner tallied four goals in USC's second game of the day -- a 17-3 win over UC Santa Barbara to move into Sunday's semifinals. In the semi, USC went up against crosstown rival UCLA, which had dealt the Trojans their lone loss of the season earlier in the year. USC exacted revenge over the Bruins this time, staying a step ahead thanks in part to three goals from Justin Rappel on the way to a 9-8 win for a spot in the title match. There, USC faced Cal, and the Trojans again never trailed on the way to a 7-6 win over the Bears to win the tournament crown and claim USC's seventh consecutive SoCal title. For his key role in pushing USC toward the title with four goals and four assists on the second day at UCI, senior Justin Rappel picked up his first career selection as MPSF Player of the Week, becoming one of four Trojans to win the honor this season.
NUMBERS GAME: Not only did the Trojans tack up big digits in 2008 -- a perfect 29-0 record; head coach Jovan Vavic's 300th career victory; and USC's fourth NCAA Championship trophy -- the numbers rolling in for the 2009 season have the Trojans leveling their collective gaze on a feat never before achieved by the program: back-to-back national championships. The formula for success is there. Six starters return from last year's championship team. Five of them are All-Americans. Four were NCAA All-Tournament Team selections. Almost 80 percent of last season's scoring production is back. Both the MPSF Player of the Year (J.W. Krumpholz) and the Newcomer of the Year (Joel Dennerley) return to the water. And Coach of the Year Vavic is back on the deck to lead them.
SENIOR STANDOUTS: USC's vaunted senior class includes an overpowering unit of six players who entered as freshmen in 2006 and have experienced only NCAA and MPSF finals since coming to Troy. J.W. Krumpholz may headline the group as the 2008 Peter J. Cutino Award winner, but fellow seniors Anthony Artukovich, Justin Rappel, Matt Sagehorn, Nico Sardo and Jordan Thompson have also been a key part of that winning formula. The addition of transfer Shea Buckner added another depth charge to that class, rounding out arguably the most talented set of seniors ever to cap up at Troy. This season to date, the group has generated over half USC's scoring with a combined 153 goals between the seven senior field players.
DEFENSE IS BEST: While the Trojans do return almost 80 percent of last year's scoring production, the name of the game for USC teams has always been defense. In the field, senior Shea Buckner is an agile and powerful presence on defense, and junior Devon Borisoff and sophomore Matt Burton also bring their deft defense back to the hole. And sophomore goalie Joel Dennerley still has his wall up in the cage. The All-American and MPSF Newcomer of the Year as a freshman last season once again is anchoring that still-dominant Trojan defense. Recently, Dennerley was named MPSF Player of the Week for his 12-save effort in the cage against Long Beach State, as the sophomore made three 5-on-6 stops and allowed just four goals -- one of which was a 5-meter penalty score. Right now, the Trojan defense has allowed just 114 goals in 22 games for a 5.2 goals-against average -- best in the MPSF and the nation once again.
OFFENSIVE ONSLAUGHT: Seniors Justin Rappel, Matt Sagehorn, Shea Buckner and J.W. Krumpholz, junior Kyle Sterling and sophomore Peter Kurzeka all scored at least 20 goals for the Trojans in 2008. This year, the group is already well within that range, as the Trojans boast one of the most widespread offenses in the country. Krumpholz and fellow senior Jordan Thompson are a potent tag-team at two-meters along with new addition Brian Boswell, while Buckner, Rappel, Sagehorn, Sterling and Kurzeka open up the field as sharpshooters on the perimeter side-by-side with experienced senior drivers Anthony Artukovich and Nico Sardo and speedy junior Devon Borisoff.
2008 RECAP: The 2008 Trojans blasted their way to an undefeated 29-0 season and USC's fourth NCAA championship last season. USC also captured back-to-back MPSF championships and the Trojans' sixth overall MPSF crown en route to head coach Jovan Vavic's seventh MPSF Coach of the Year award and sixth National Coach of the Year honors. The Trojans finished out the program's first undefeated overall year since a 5-0 final record in 1944. USC is the first team in 16 years to go undefeated through an entire season. For the fourth consecutive season, USC led the nation in team defense (4.76 gapg), while the offense saw 20 different players score on the year, averaging a total of 11.7 gpg. All told, USC outscored its opponents 340-138 in 2008. Seven Trojans were named All-Americans, including 2008 Cutino Award winner J.W. Krumpholz.