Men's Water Polo
    No. 4 USC Prepped For Battle At MPSF Championships
    It's tournament time for the Trojans!
    It's tournament time for the Trojans!

    Nov. 27, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    The No. 4 USC men's water polo team enters the 2013 MPSF Championships needing a strong run in the tourney in order to punch a ticket to the coming NCAA Championships. The defenders of five straight national championships are seeded No. 4 for this year's MPSF Championships, held this week in Stockton, Calif., with action running Nov. 29-Dec. 1. The Trojans (23-4) will open up their championship campaign against No. 5 California (16-7) in the MPSF Tournament first round at 3 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 29). A win there could likely put USC up against top-seeded host Pacific in a 1:30 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (Nov. 30) for the right to move into the title match. The MPSF Championship bout is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 1) preceded by a 1:30 p.m. third-place match.

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    RANKINGS
    The five-time defending NCAA champion 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, USC avenged that loss to the Bruins and the Trojans jumped back to the top of the national rankings. USC's Nov. 9 loss to Pacific, however, dropped the Trojans down to No. 2, snapping a four-week stint on top. After falling to Stanford and UCLA, USC stands at No. 4 this week.

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    USC was 24-0 overall and the top seed in the 2012 MPSF Tournament, which was hosted by the Trojans. USC opened up with a 17-9 win over UC Santa Barbara in the first round and then topped Stanford 11-10 in the semifinals to square off against California in the title match. In the final, USC dominated the Bears 9-5 to lock in on the Trojans' eighth MPSF Tournament title and sew up the top seed for the NCAA Championships en route to USC's fifth consecutive national championship and a perfect season.

    AND NOW...
    This year, the Trojans are looking for their ninth MPSF Tournament title and an automatic berth into the coming 2013 NCAA Championships, where USC hopes to defend its five straight national championships. USC (23-4) has already beaten all its MPSF opponents at least once this season, but losses in MPSF regular-season action have the Trojans as the No. 4 seed in this year's MPSF Tournament. Pacific (20-3) takes the top seed and is the host of this year's tourney, followed by No. 2 seeded Stanford (19-4) and No. 3 seed UCLA (27-2). California (16-7) is seeded No. 5 behind the Trojans, followed by No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (16-9), No. 7 Long Beach State (19-12) and with UC Irvine (13-12) grabbing the No. 8 seed.

    LAST WEEK
    USC was robbed of a chance at taking down rival UCLA in sudden-death when a last-second Bruin shot was determined by the officials to have fully crossed the line before USC goalie James Clark scooped it away. That game-deciding call put the win in the Bruins' books for a rousing MPSF finale in Westwood last week. The 10-9 overtime decision in UCLA's favor wrapped up the regular season for both teams. The Trojans had surged to lead UCLA by three goals during the third period of play, but the host Bruins scored three in a row to pull even during the fourth. Mace Rapsey snapped eight minutes of USC scoring silence with a blast at the post to take the Trojans ahead 8-7 with 2:49 to go, only to have UCLA convert its first 6-on-5 of the night to level things at 8-8. A defensive first overtime frame gave way to a tense second OT. The Bruins took their first lead since the first period of play with a strike out of two meters by Lucas Reynolds. But USC senior Connor Virjee had the answer just 17 seconds later with a catapulting score that made it 9-9 with 2:17 left in overtime. The officials were letting the teams play things out, with no ejections called for a long stretch. That is, until UCLA was awarded a power play with just seconds remaining. Ryder Roberts got off a prayer of a shot just as time expired, and his shot floated at the goal line, where Clark scooped it away. One official appeared to wave off the goal, but the opposite official determined that the entire ball had indeed crossed the plane, thus gifting the goal and the victory to UCLA before the game could extend into sudden death. USC played a strong and balanced game, serving up an inside-outside attack that kept the Bruins guessing down the stretch. Jeremy Davie struck twice out of two meters, with Jon Walters adding one of his own. Mace Rapsey would lead all scorers on the night with a hat trick, joined by Nikola Vavic with a pair of scores and Connor Virjee with that last blast for the Trojan cause. In the goal, James Clark was outstanding, hauling in 15 saves on the night, including three big saves in OT. UCLA struck first, but the Trojans rifled in the next two on strikes from Vavic and Rapsey. Even at 2-2 entering the second frame, USC took control, silencing the Bruins while Davie and Walters flexed their two-meter muscle to take USC ahead 4-2 at the half. USC would build three-goal advantages during the third, up 6-3 on Rapsey's second of the night and then 7-4 on Vavic's second -- that one set up by a nice pop-out from Davie at set. And yet, it would all come down to that one last shot awarded to the Bruins. Goal-line technology isn't an option in water polo, leaving tonight's epic battle -- a rematch of the past two NCAA title matches won by the Trojans -- as a UCLA victory to wrap the regular season.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Now locked into the 2013 postseason, the Trojans have been putting up big numbers this season. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 70 goals -- fifth most in USC history -- along with Nikola Vavic with 67 goals, Connor Virjee with 44 and Mace Rapsey with 42, USC has outscored opponents 428-169 -- nearly tripling its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.3 goals per game and has held opponents scoreless in 24 periods of regulation play so far, including 12 games where the Trojans shut out opponents in the first period. USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in offense (15.85 gpg) and No. 2 in defense (6.29 gapg).

    CAREER COUNTER
    Nikola Vavic entered 2013 in the books ranked No. 4 all-time in USC scoring history. During USC's run to the SoCal Tournament championship, Vavic took over the No. 1 spot, previously occupied by Juraj Zatovic since 2005. Vavic is creating some extra space at the top now, holding 240 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. 5 all-time with 169 career goals -- having broken into the top-10 on Oct. 19 -- and Davie ranks No. 19 with 123 to date. Senior Mace Rapsey joined those teammates in the century club on Oct. 12, as the junior now has 118 career goals to rank No. 23 all-time, having edged out current USC head assistant coach Marko Pintaric, who scored 103 during his Trojan career.

    CONNOR'S CAREER DAY
    USC senior Connor Virjee snagged his first MPSF Player of the Week award on Oct. 28 after hitting a career-high five goals in a key MPSF road win for the Trojans over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara. Virjee had a hat trick in the books in the first period of play and finished up the 16-10 USC victory with a five-goal outing. Virjee entered his senior year with 45 career goals, but the senior has now nearly matched that with 44 goals already in this one season, good for third most on the Trojan roster in 2013. It was the first career MPSF pick for Virjee, who joins teammate Kostas Genidounias as USC's weekly award honorees this season.

    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. 5 with 169 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 three losses 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.

    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 managed a pair of goals, but not before Genidounias rang up his fourth of the game to make it a 10-6 victory. That put USC in another tournament title match against UCLA. 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 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.

    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.

    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.