For the past couple years, a Greek god has dominated the waters of Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Well, junior driver Kostas Genidounias has at least performed like one.
Hailing from Athens, Greece, the 6-foot-1 driver is the Trojans’ second leading scorer with 53 goals through 20 games and is the only USC player to tally a goal in every match so far this season. He’s tied for eighth on the Trojans’ all-time scoring chart.
He currently stands at 152 goals for his USC career, with a lot of his junior season still to come. If he stays on pace, Genidounias could have a shot at breaking the all-time scoring record that senior Nikola Vavic holds with 230 goals.
“It’s always in my head, but I try not to let it affect my game,” Genidounias said.
He has not only been known for his goal scoring, but also for his ability to put the ball in the back of the net when the team most needs it. In other words, if there was an award given to the most “clutch” player in water polo, it would be Genidounias.
“I feel like I’m just doing my job and doing what I have to do,” said Genidounias. “If the ball is in my hands with time running out, all I worry about is putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Most recently, he netted the buzzer-beating goal that tied the score against UCLA before pocketing the game-winning goal to clinch the SoCal Championship for the Trojans. He also scored the game-winner in last year’s national championship match against the Bruins to give USC its fifth consecutive national title.
“Kostas has been great for us when we have needed him most,” head coach Jovan Vavic said.
All of this late and timely scoring against UCLA has created many memories for Genidounias, and he feels that his crosstown rivals will always remember him too.
“They must not like me very much over there [at UCLA],” said Genidounias. “Scoring that goal to win the national championship was definitely my most memorable experience, though.”
If there is one thing that Genidounias loves to do, it’s winning. And that played a large part into why he ultimately decided to attend USC.
“Living in Greece, I always had the idea of studying abroad. So I went online and saw that USC had the best water polo team,” Genidounias said. “I then immediately wanted to go there and have never had any second thoughts.”
The priority of winning fares well with his head coach, who has won 12 national championships while at USC.
“It’s great to play for coach Vavic for that exact reason, you win,” Genidounias said.
The junior has already done just that by playing an integral part in the team’s last two national championships and losing just four games through about two and half campaigns.
With such great expectations, however, Genidounias receives his share of tough love from Vavic.
“It’s challenging because he is demanding sometimes,” Genidounias said. “But it is only because he wants you to get better and improve as a player.”
Rightfully so — Vavic probably expects a lot from his star player because of all the success he achieved in his first two years.
As a freshman, Genidounias was the team’s third leading scorer with 31 goals. Last year, he more than doubled that total with 68 goals, which was good enough for second on the team.
His sophomore season goal total tied for the fifth-most single-season goals in the sport’s history, and also resulted in him being named a first-team All American.
Having accomplished so much already as an underclassman, Genidounias said that right now, he is mainly focused on winning a sixth consecutive national championship for the Trojans.
“I don’t like to lose,” Genidounias said. “I want to prove that by winning two more national championships.”
Once his four years at USC are up, Genidounias, who is majoring in communication, plans to head back to his home land of Greece to play professional water polo and try out for the Olympic team.
Genidounias may be the nicest guy one will meet on land, but it is evident that he is a force to be reckoned with in the water. If he continues to play the way he has, Genidounias could very well possibly be a front runner to win the Peter J. Cutino Award next season to go along with that pair of national titles he covets.