It took all four periods of regulation, two overtime periods and sudden death, but the No. 4 USC men’s water polo team got a win nonetheless in a 9-8 victory over No. 2 California on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
The Trojans improved to 12-2 and 3-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play against the Golden Bears (14-3, 2-1). A goal in sudden death notched by sophomore two-meter Jeremy Davie off an assist by sophomore driver Nikola Vavic with six seconds left in the three-minute sudden death round secured the narrow win for the Trojans.
“It’s not unfamiliar for us to be in sudden death,” Davie told USCTrojans.com. “The pressure is good but it’s pretty stressful. [There was] not much time left on the clock, making a back door move, and just hoping for a miracle move and Nikola as usual provides.”
Cal took a 2-0 lead over USC at the beginning of the first period thanks to a 6-on-5 and a 5-meter penalty shot. USC answered with a pair of goals of its own from sophomore utility Mace Rapsey and senior driver Peter Kurzeka. With the score tied 2-2, The Golden Bears came back to score another goal on a 6-on-5 and captured their first goal of the game as well.
The score then 4-2, the Trojans replied to the Golden Bears’ fire with some heat of their own. Redshirt junior driver Forest Monroe took advantage of a USC 6-on-5 to up the score 4-3, and a goal from junior driver Tobias Preuss pulled the two teams even at 4-4 by the end of the half.
On the defensive side, resolute blocking from senior goalie Joel Dennerley, who secured 15 saves throughout the course of the game, aided the Trojan defense in stopping Cal’s forceful offense.
“Joel is a brick wall, you cannot get a shot past that guy … and I’m sure every player in the country is afraid of shooting on him,” Davie said.
USC took its first lead of the game when Vavic notched a goal, thanks to an assist from Kurzeka, making it 5-4. Cal would get even with the Trojans, but two more USC goals, the first from Davie and the second from Preuss, made for a 7-5 USC lead with 2:44 left in the third period.
After two more goals from Cal, on its next possession and early in the fourth period — leaving the score at 7-7 at the end of the fourth — the game went into overtime.
The first overtime period saw the Golden Bears secure a point with less than 20 seconds left, Rapsey found Davie in the second overtime period, however, and the score was evened out at 8-8 as the game entered its sudden death round.
Davie’s last-minute goal in sudden death was his third of the game and exactly what USC needed to finally put a stop to Cal, leading to a final score of 9-8.
USC’s win gives the team hope that it might reclaim its No. 1 ranking.
“Stanford lost [this weekend] so that puts Cal and Stanford both at three losses and us and UCLA at two, so it’ll be interesting to see when the rankings come out,” Davie said. “Hopefully we’ll be back at number one.”
The Trojans will face No. 5 UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Sunday.