No. 3 USC seeks retribution against Stanford

The men’s water polo team is looking to avenge its only loss of the season when the Trojans face off against Stanford Saturday morning.

USC has won 10 of 11 games this season, with its only loss coming to Stanford on Sept. 20 at the Kap7 NorCal Invitational.

The Trojans will have a chance to get revenge as No. 3-ranked USC takes on No. 2 Stanford at home on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., kicking off a busy weekend of water polo at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

On Sunday, the Trojans will play San Jose State in an afternoon affair.

Since losing their first game of the season to the Cardinal, the Trojans have gained a new perspective of what they can do better in the pool.

“In the Stanford game we were particularly hesitant at times and that reflected in our offense,” junior Blake Edwards said. “We are creating opportunities and that’s a reflection of the talent of our team and our systems so if we just change the mindset there’s no team that can beat us.”

USC started out strong in MPSF play with a 17-9 victory over seventh-ranked Long Beach State last Saturday behind a hat trick each from Nick Bell, Grant Stein and Chase Koplow.

“Last game [against Stanford] was pretty disappointing for us,” sophomore Lachlan Edwards said. “I think that Long Beach game and getting some goals on the board gave some of the guys a bit of confidence.”

The Trojans, led by head coach Jovan Vavic, have dominated teams thus far this season in non-conference play, outscoring opponents 222-58 and allowing just 5.4 goals per game, good enough to rank first in the MPSF in offense at 20.2 goals per game and third in defense.

For the first time in quite a while, the Trojans don’t have their score sheet filled by primarily just one player, as it did in previous years with all-time scording leaders Nikola Vavic and Kostas Genidounias.

They are led on offense by Edwards, who transferred from Deakin University in Australia and has an impressive 31 goals through 11 games. Edwards, a member of the Australian National Team, served as team captain at the 2013 and 2015 World University Games. Matteo Morelli (21 goals), Mac Carden (18 goals) and Nick Bell (17 goals) round out the top goal scorers for USC.

It will be a marquee match-up on Saturday with two of the top three teams in the nation squaring off.

The all-time record is relatively even, with USC dipping below .500 against Stanford since 1979 at 59-60 after its loss to the Cardinal on Sept. 20. Stanford, led by Bret Bonanni with 43 goals, is 12-1 on the season. However, under Vavic, the Trojans are a sturdy 48-17 against the Cardinal.

After that 6-5 loss to the Cardinal in the 2015 Kap7 NorCal Invitational semifinals a couple weeks ago, Bell believes that USC now has a chip on their shoulders to get a win against Stanford.

Unlike with Stanford, the Trojans have little history against San Jose State because the Spartans’ water polo team is in its first year of existence since 1981, when the program was discontinued.

The Spartans have struggled in their first year back, with a 3-8 record thus far under head coach Bruce Watson.

After this weekend’s slate of games at home, USC will participate in the SoCal Tournament hosted by LMU and Pepperdine on Oct. 10-11.

“I think we can beat any team — it’s just about whether we play our systems and everyone does their role,” Edwards said. “If that happens I think we can beat anyone. I think it will be a much different story this time.”