Despite entering the weekend under unfamiliar circumstances, the No. 3 USC men’s water polo team ended its weekend doubleheader with a much more familiar result.
The Trojans defeated Pepperdine 14-8 in the first match of the day, pleasing a packed crowd in their home debut at McDonald’s Swim Stadium. Despite having had their 36-game winning streak snapped last weekend against UCLA, this victory was the Trojans’ 34th consecutive win at home.
“It’s always fun to come back home and beat an opponent, especially Pepperdine,” said senior two-meter Shea Buckner. “It felt good to play at home. The atmosphere was good, and the crowd was fun.”
USC also beat Long Beach City College 15-6 in a scrimmage following the first match, with the Trojans using reserve players to earn the victory.
The Trojans commanded play for the majority of the Pepperdine contest, relying on their unrelenting offensive attacks to seal the victory. Senior driver Justin Rappel and redshirt junior driver Kyle Sterling scored three goals each, while senior driver Matt Sagehorn and senior two-meter J.W. Krumpholz added two more each. USC managed to spread out its goals equally, scoring seven goals in each half between eight different players.
“We played well today,” Rappel said. “[We] made a couple mistakes, but overall it was a good game. [We] came out focused and ready to play.”
USC jumped out to an early lead on a goal from Krumpholz in the Trojans’ first 6-on-5 of the game, and then Sagehorn and Sterling each found the back of the net to go up 3-0. Pepperdine responded with a strike from Taylor Watson, but goals from sophomore driver Peter Kurzeka and Krumpholz put the Trojans up 5-1 after the first period.
Pepperdine responded in the second period with two fast goals, but USC was able to keep its advantage behind scores from Sterling and Buckner, and went into the half with a comfortable four-goal advantage.
The third period featured a flurry of offensive action, as the Trojans posted five goals and the Waves scored four. Rappel found the net three times in the frame, and Sagehorn and fellow senior driver Anthony Artukovich each added one more to silence a Waves’ attack that was threatening a comeback.
Two additional scores from Sagehorn and Sterling in the fourth period capped the 14-8 final for the Trojans.
Sophomore goalkeeper Joel Dennerley recorded eight saves in the match, but the Trojans’ defense was shaky at times against a strong Waves team that scored 75 goals in their first eight games. Pepperdine center Clayton Snyder had three goals, and was able to score on two occasions as part of the Waves’ four-goal third period, forcing the Trojans to make some defensive adjustments in the second half.
“It comes down to defense,” Rappel said. “We’re not really worried about scoring goals. If we play defense, the goals are going to come.”