The No. 1-ranked Trojans dove back into Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play on Sunday and defeated No. 6 UC Santa Barbara 16-10.
USC (20-1, 2-0 MPSF) pushes their current winning streak to double digits, now standing at 10 games, with the win.
The Trojans got off to a hot start against the Gauchos, netting three consecutive goals to begin the game before UCSB got its first goal early in the first quarter. It was a high-scoring opening frame, as the two teams added three more goals apiece before the Trojans took a 6-4 lead into the second.
UCSB (15-6, 2-2 MPSF) was able to keep up with the top-ranked Trojans through two quarters, down 9-7 at halftime, but USC’s defense kicked in during the second half, when they limited the Gauchos to only three goals. The Trojans recorded seven goals in the half, with four of those coming in the final quarter of play.
USC head coach Jovan Vavic attested this defensive improvement to the way the Gauchos’ pool is designed.
“It’s the only pool in the conference with a shallow end and in the second half,” Vavic said, “we played defense in the deep end, so offensive players weren’t able to push off the bottom of the pool to gain an advantage.”
Senior goalie James Clark anchored the stout USC defense, with eight saves on the day for the Trojans.
Senior two-meter Connor Virjee did not waste any of his chances to score on offense, tallying five goals on the day, many of them coming during 6-on-5 chances.
“Connor really had a good shooting day for us, especially from the outside in our man-up situations,” Vavic said.
USC converted nine out of its 12 extra-man opportunities on the day, and this paved the way for even more Trojan players to score.
Three USC players recorded hat tricks — Virjee, redshirt junior driver Rex Butler and junior driver Kostas Genidounias. Senior utility player Mace Rapsey also netted two goals.
Senior driver Nikola Vavic, the Trojans’ all-time leading goal scorer, had a quiet day with only one goal, but coach Vavic pointed out that he contributed in other ways.
“Nikola played a large role on offense for us,” Vavic said. “He was drawing a number of ejections, as well as being a facilitator for his teammates, getting assists.”
The team will look to continue its 10-game winning streak up north against another conference opponent in Pacific. The teams play on Saturday, Nov. 2 with game time set for noon.
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