The No. 1 USC men’s water polo team is back on top.
Tied with UCLA for the top ranking, the Trojans (19-2, 7-0) defeated No. 7 Pacific 11-9 in overtime last Saturday, one day before a 10-5 win over No. 13 Concordia at McDonald’s Swim Stadium on Senior Day.
Friday’s game saw the return of freshman driver Kostas Genidounias, who had been out with a hand injury.
“It’s a huge boost for our team,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “Having him back is really big for us.
The last home game for USC senior goalie Joel Dennerley and senior driver Peter Kurzeka, the Trojans came back from a shaky first half to decisively defeat the Eagles. Both teams were tied after the first quarter at 3-3, with Concordia responding to every USC goal with one of its own. Genidounias opened up the second quarter with a shot from the outside to give the Trojans a 4-3 lead, with sophomore two-meter Jeremy Davie quickly notching a goal of his own to increase the lead by two.
Defensive efforts by the Trojans could not stop two more goals from the Eagles, however, and the score evened to 5-5. Sophomore driver Nikola Vavic took advantage of a penalty shot to make it 6-5 in favor of the Trojans as half time rolled around.
“[In the first half] I think we took the opponent lightly and I don’t think we were mentally focused the way we usually are,” Vavic said. “There were a couple of defensive breakdowns as well. In the second half, we focused a lot better and Joel [Dennerley] did a lot better in the second half.”
The second half saw an invigorated USC team. Thanks to quick goals from junior driver Michael Rosenthal and junior driver Tobias Preuss, the Trojans secured an 8-5 lead. The Eagles would fail to score once in the second half thanks to Dennerley’s efforts in the cage. The senior goalie had 12 saves total.
Late in the third frame a goal from Kurzeka made him No. 13 on the all-time scoring list at USC with 132 career goals. Redshirt junior two-meter Brian Boswell notched the Trojans’ final goal of the game in the fourth, making the final score 10-5 in favor of USC.
In the Trojans’ game against Pacific, they found similar success, though under more pressure-filled circumstances. USC was taken into overtime after an action-packed game, but Preuss’ two goals in the first overtime period ensured a Trojan victory.
Nine different Trojans scored in the Pacific game, including Davie, Kurzeka, Genidounias and Boswell, something that speaks volumes about the team’s offensive abilities, according to Vavic.
“It is an indication that we can get more than more person to score goals and we are well balanced,” he said.