The No. 2 USC men’s water polo team goes into each game with one defensive goal — hold the opposition to four goals or less. Rarely does it fail to reach that goal, but its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matchup against No. 9 Pepperdine proved a stiff challenge for the Trojans (17-2, 6-0) in that regard.
USC defeated the Waves 14-8 on Saturday at McDonald’s Swim Stadium, thanks to a strong offensive showing. The defensive effort, however, was uncharacteristically shaky. It was the most goals allowed by the Trojans in regulation since a 10-8 win over UCLA earlier in the season in the finals of the NorCal tournament.
“It’s disappointing because it’s our goal to keep them below four,” senior goalie Joel Dennerley said. “[Saturday] we didn’t achieve that. Pepperdine, to give them credit, they have some great shooters and they deserve full credit for the offense they put up against us.”
The first period of the game saw the Trojans score four points, while Pepperdine failed to get on the scoreboard. The Trojans continued to show off their offensive prowess with another goal to quickly start off the second period and ultimately lead 6-0 midway through the second period.
A goal from Pepperdine with five minutes left in the half gave the Waves some momentum. A strong performance by sophomore driver Tobias Preuss, who notched a hat trick in the first half, still made the Trojan offense potent.
USC still managed to score two more goals in the first half, leaving the score 8-1.
In the second half, the Trojans then let in seven goals.
“We did a great job in the first half,” Dennerley said. “In the second half we slipped up a few times defensively but we’ll look at the tape and see what we can improve upon.”
It proved a sharp contrast to last week, when the Trojans allowed just four goals in an 8-4 win over No. 4 Stanford.
“To come out and give up eight goals was not idea, but again, we are still building upon the season,” Dennerley said.
But offense certainly wasn’t an issue.
Sophomore driver Nikola Vavic earned a hat trick against the Waves.
“It’s just good confidence-wise knowing that I can still do what I wanna do and that it is working out for me,” Vavic said. “Hopefully I can keep it up but it’s definitely a big confidence boost.”
The Trojans topped Chapman with a score of 17-6, with goals from seven different Trojans, including five goals from Vavic and three from redshirt junior driver Andrew Reego.
“All around we did really good offensively,” Vavic said. “We were fired up from the beginning and as long as we play like this we should be able to keep up the success.”
Freshman driver Kostas Genidounia was once again out of the lineup for the Trojans after injuring his hand against California on Oct. 15.
“Obviously it is not a good thing when you lose one of your better players but we have done a good job adapting and hopefully he is back soon,” Vavic said.
The Trojans face off in their final home game of the season, a nonconference game against Concordia, on Saturday at 5 p.m.