Men's Water Polo
    USC Steps Into 10th Straight NCAA Tournament Seeking Seventh Straight Crown

    Jovan Vavic and the Trojans look for another chance for an NCAA championship splashdown this weekend in La Jolla.
    Dec. 3, 2014

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    THIS WEEK
    USC has staked its claim on a 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA Semifinals to improve on the Trojans' chances of defending their historic run of six straight national championships. In order to make an appearance in the NCAA title match for the 10th straight year -- and take a shot at keeping its championship streak alive as well -- No. 3 seed USC (23-6) will need to get past No. 2 seed Stanford (25-3). The Trojans and the Cardinal meet for the third time this season with USC looking to snag its first win of the year against Stanford. That NCAA semifinal bout is set for 3:10 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 6) at UC San Diego's Canyonview Pool in La Jolla, Calif. A victory in the semi would place the Trojans back in the NCAA Championship match -- this one set for 3:10 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 7), preceded by a 1 p.m. third-place game. All games this weekend (Dec. 6-7) will be streamed live on ncaa.com.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC4
    Stanford (Semifinal)7
    November 22, 2014
    Long Beach, Calif.
    Trojans To Play For Third Place At MPSF Tournament
    The No. 3 USC men's water polo team was denied a chance to go for a third straight MPSF Tournament title today when No. 2 Stanford made a successful final push to a 7-4 victory at the MPSF semifinals at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center in Long Beach. The Trojans and the Cardinal were locked up 4-4 entering the final period of play, and it was Stanford that found the winning groove. The loss puts USC at 22-5 overall as the Trojans now go up against top-seeded rival UCLA tomorrow (Nov. 23) at 1:30 p.m. to fight for third place in the tourney. That game could have some serious NCAA implications, as the Trojans look to create some winning momentum in order to have a chance at defending their six consecutive national championships.

    THE LAST MEETING
    Long Beach City College6
    USC15
    September 26, 2009
    McDonald's Swim Stadium
    2014 NATIONAL COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
    Canyonview Pool • La Jolla (UC San Diego)

    SEMIFINALS (Saturday, Dec. 6)
    Semifinal #1: 1 p.m. -- No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 4 UC San Diego
    Semifinal #2: 3:10 p.m. -- No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 USC

    FINALS (Sunday, Dec. 7)
    Consolation Game: 1 p.m.
    Championship Game: 3:10 p.m.

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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, went to No. 3 for four weeks, moved to No. 4 after the MPSF Tournament, and are presently ranked No. 3 in the nation.

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    In 2013, USC was the top seed in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight season, having earned an automatic bid with a run to the Trojans' second straight and ninth overall MPSF Tournament title. Defensively, USC was averaging 6.63 goals-against per game, and was also averaging 15.6 goals per game on the offensive end. Junior Kostas Genidounias was leading USC in scoring with 76 goals -- the exact same tally he holds this season entering the NCAA semifinals -- followed by 76 from senior Nikola Vavic. In all, it was the highest-powered offense ever for the Trojans, who had scored 468 total goals to better the previous record of 416 set in 2012. Senior goalie James Clark was averaging 9.61 saves and 6.76 goals-against per game in his second season as a Trojan. Overall, USC had outscored opponents 468-199 to date, including 13 different scorers with at least 15 goals, and six different scorers averaging at least one goal per game. The 2013 Trojans opened the 2013 tourney with 10-3 win over St. Francis Brooklyn. The 2013 title match was another wild one, as USC trailed by two with 3:31 to go in regulation, but came through in the clutch to force overtime. The first OT was a defensive stalemate, but in the next it was Vavic who broke through for a 12-11 USC lead in the first minute of that frame. The Trojans defense would hold on, with big saves coming from Clark, and one last steal from Genidounias sealed the Trojans' sixth straight and ninth overall NCAA title. At tournament's end, Genidounias and Vavic were named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team, while Clark, Jeremy Davie and Connor Virjee were selected to the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team.

    AND NOW...
    USC holds a 23-6 overall record entering the 2014 National Collegiate Championships, having beaten No. 6 seeded Whittier 19-4 in last weekend's NCAA Play-in game. Seeded No. 3 in this year's tournament, USC grabbed one of the two at-large berths into this year's tourney. The NCAA title winners in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Trojans are making their 29th overall appearance in the national tournament. With seven crowns claimed in the past nine seasons, USC made history in 2012 as the first collegiate men's water polo team to make eight consecutive appearances and then added to their historic efforts in becoming the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six straight NCAA titles last season in 2013. For the first time in nine seasons, USC is not the No. 1 seed in the tournament but the Trojans are still clearly a force to reckon with. With 419 goals scored to date, the 2014 Trojans have recorded the second most goals in a single season, and is averaging 14.45 goals per game to date. Defensively, USC averages 6.66 goals-against per game. This year's offense is led by senior Kostas Genidounias with 76 goals -- having recently taken over as USC's all-time top scorer with 255 career goals. USC's freshman goalie McQuin Baron is averaging 10.89 saves and 6.76 goals-against per game. Overall, USC has outscored opponents 419-193, with 10 different Trojans having scored 20 or more goals so far and an average of almost eight different USC scorers per game.

    USC BY THE NUMBERS
    29th -- NCAA appearance all-time
    10th -- consecutive NCAA appearance
    9 -- consecutive NCAA title matches reached
    9 -- total national championships won
    7 -- NCAA titles won in past 9 years
    6 -- consecutive national championships won
    5 -- saves needed for McQuin Baron to break USC single-season saves record
    1 -- Kostas Genidounias' all-time scoring rank

    THE CONTENDERS
    The 2014 National Collegiate Championships has followed the same format as was introduced last season, with six teams in the mix as opposed to four in past years. The top two seeds earn a place in the semifinal round, where they await winners of play-in games between the No. 3-6 seeded teams. This year, UCLA (27-3) has picked up the top seed, with MPSF Tournament champion Stanford (25-3) the No. 2 seed in the opposite semifinal. The third MPSF team in the mix, USC (23-6) picked up the No. 3 seed, followed by the automatic bids from other conference tournaments. Western Water Polo Association winner UC San Diego (16-9) is seeded at No. 4 for the second year running; Collegiate Water Polo Association champ Brown was the No. 5 seed; and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference winner Whittier as seeded No. 6 for the second straight year. Both Brown and Whittier were ousted from the tournament last weekend in the Play-in games. The Trojans are making their 10th straight trip to the tournament, Stanford is making its second consecutive appearance and UCLA is back in after missing the cut in 2013. Brown earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1990.

    THE MATCHUPS
    USC vs. UCLA
    All-time: 65-49-1
    This season: 1-3
    Last: L 10-5 (MPSF 3rd Place - Nov. 23, 2014)
    Last in NCAA Tourn.: W 11-10 (2012 final)

    USC vs. Stanford
    All-time: 58-59
    This season: 0-2
    Last: L 7-4 (MPSF Semifinal - Nov. 22, 2014)
    Last in NCAA Tourn.: W 7-5 (2008 final)

    USC vs. UC San Diego
    All-time: 33-2
    This season: None
    Last: W 17-4 (Sept. 14, 2013)
    Last in NCAA Tourn.: L 9-8 (2000 semi)

    MCQUIN MAKES MPSF MARK
    Freshman goalie McQuin Baron hauled in 31 saves across two MPSF wins, going big with a new career best of 18 saves at UC Irvine on Nov. 9. For his efforts in the cage for the Trojan cause, Baron was named the MPSF Player of the Week on Nov. 10. Baron began the important weekend of conference play with a 13-save outing in a 13-7 road win over No. 4 Long Beach State. That set the freshman up well for an even bigger 18-save day in which he allowed seven goals in just under four periods of work in an eventual 14-10 road win over #12 UC Irvine. With the first conference honor of his career, Baron became the second Trojan to be named MPSF Player of the Week this season, following sophomore Nick Bell's selection last month. Entering the NCAA semifinals, Baron has collected 264 total saves this season, marking the second most in program history. The record was set by Andrew Tinseth in 1993 with 268 saves, putting Baron five saves away from breaking the record this season.

    MPSF RECAP
    USC finished up in fourth place at the MPSF Tournament last weekend, after appearing in the third-place game for the first time since 2009. The Trojans opened up the tournament on a powerful note, ramping up with a 12-5 win over UC Irvine on the hands of eight different scorers. USC kicked out to a 5-0 lead on the Anteaters, coming just 21 seconds away from a first-half shutout. USC's Nick Bell tacked up two goals in that first offensive surge by the Trojans, with Mihajlo Milicevic, Kostas Genidounias and James Walters plugging in goals of their own to craft that 5-0 lead. UC Irvine broke its silence just before halftime, but the damage was already done and the Trojans would keep rolling in the next two frames to finish out the solid win. That put USC in a semifinal bout against Stanford the next day. USC seniors Rex Butler and Marc Vonderweidt each scored twice as the Trojans and the Cardinal were locked up 4-4 entering the final period of play, but it was Stanford that found the winning groove as USC misfired down the stretch to fall 7-4 to the Cardinal. That put the Trojans up against UCLA in the third-place game, and USC found itself off-balance from the start. Hamstrung by a slow start that had the Trojans in an early 4-0 hole, USC finally got on the board with a score from Vonderweidt. But the Bruins just kept clicking and USC just couldn't keep up in this one. Genidounias would lead the Trojans with three goals, and in doing so he pulled even at the No. 1 all-time scoring spot, now tied with Nikola Vavic with 254 career goals. But the Bruins would win the day with a final 10-5 victory that left USC in fourth place at the MPSF Tournament. With five goals scored at the tourney, Genidounias was named to the MPSF All-Tournament Team for the third straight season. The fourth-place finish is the lowest since taking fifth at the conference tourney in 2002.

    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 22 goals scored in his 16 appearances, Bell is currently averaging 1.4 goals per game for the Trojan cause.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    On the way into NCAA action, the Trojans have put up big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 76 - - goals -- fifth most in program history for a single season -- Rex Butler with 45 and Matteo Morelli with 39, there are a grand total of 12 Trojans with at least 15 goals apiece. Six of them are freshmen and four are seniors, exhibiting some dangerous balance for USC. To date, USC has outscored opponents 419-193 -- more than double its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.66 goals per game, having held opponents scoreless in the third quarter in eight 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 MPSF Player of the Year, he's the Trojans' top scorer this season with 76 goals to date. His hat trick in the MPSF third-place game bumped the senior up to tie at No. 1 all-time in career scoring alongside Nikola Vavic. And in scoring the opening goal of USC's NCAA Play-in win over Whittier on Nov. 29, Genidounias took sole possession as the Trojans' top scorer in program history. He holds 255 career goals as he now enters his fourth trip to the NCAA semifinals as a Trojan.

    SENIORS SHINING
    USC's senior class has shouldered the load for the Trojans in the late stages of this 2014 season. In particular, seniors Kostas Genidounias and Marc Vonderweidt have come up huge, handling much of the USC scoring in the Trojans' last four games leading up to the NCAa Play-in game. Of the 28 USC goals scored in that span, Genidounias and Vonderweidt provided over half of the scoring, with 15 goals between them. Genidounias tallied eight -- pulling even at No. 1 all-time in career goals with his hat trick vs. UCLA -- while Vonderweidt punched in seven, including a career-high three in a tight win over Cal. Fellow senior Rex Butler also contributed four goals in that recent stretch. All three would also make contributions in USC's balanced NCAA Play-in win over Whittier. Vonderweidt nailed his second career hat trick, Butler added two goals, and Genidounias took over as USC's all-time top scorer in tallying the first goal of that eventual 19-4 victory, which propelled the Trojans into the NCAA semifinals for the 10th straight year.

    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 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 189 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. 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. 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 205 goals to date. What's more, Butler nailed his 100th career goal this year, becoming the 32nd Trojan to hit the mark. He just took over at No. 25 all-time with 114 goals to beat out current associate head coach Marko Pintaric, who scored 103 career goals in his Trojan career.

    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 5.3 saves and 5.3 goals-against per game in his 12 appearances. Baron, meanwhile, has capped up in 26 games, hauling in 10.89 saves per game and allowing 6.67 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. •