The No. 1 USC men’s water polo team has a long-term goal: to win a fourth consecutive NCAA championship title this season.
It took its first step toward that goal Sunday, defeating Fresno Pacific 26-4 as part of the UC Irvine Invitational in Irvine, Calif.
The Trojans (1-0) faced the Sunbirds in their first regular season matchup of the season — one day removed from scrimmages against Long Beach State, Stanford and UC Irvine.
They capped with the weekend with a second scrimmage against the Anteaters on Sunday, as well.
“The biggest improvement we made from the first to second day was passing,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “The first game we played against Irvine was 9-7 but the second time we played it was 11-1. It was a huge difference between playing the same team on the first day and second. Our guys were much more unselfish in our second game [in terms of passing].”
The defending champions began their lone regular season contest of the weekend against Fresno Pacific with seven consecutive goals, followed by one goal from the Sunbirds. The Trojans responded by scoring 10 more, bringing the score at the half a commanding 17-1. In the second two frames, things went from bad to worse for USC’s competition as the Trojans sealed the 26-4 victory.
Three Trojans scored four goals each during the match; redshirt freshman driver Zach Lucas, sophomore driver Stephen Siri and senior driver Peter Kurzeka.
Vavic, in his 17th season of coaching the men’s team, was quick to credit his players.
“We had three guys who scored four goals … but overall we give the guys the points for goals, assists and defensive efforts,” Vavic said. “Overall the player with the most points was [redshirt junior Andrew] Reego, he had 21 points, and the second was Peter [Kurzeka] with 19. Those would be our top players of the game.”
Despite the team’s impressive victory, Vavic refrained from forming conclusions about his young group.
“After that game it’s hard to really judge anything about how the rest of the season is going to be,” Vavic said. “It was a good opportunity to play everybody. We played 20 players, 2 goalies and 18 regular players, and we feel very confident.”
Following its strong player over opening weekend, the team will head into next weekend’s match against Cal Baptist looking to build upon its debut performance.
“The guys had some really good showings and I think our offense was really prepared in every game,” Vavic said. “Defensively we were much better our second day than the first day. Overall I was very pleased with our energy and excitement.”