The No. 4 men’s water polo team returned home to take on No. 7 UC Irvine Sunday afternoon and put the Anteaters away with a dominant 14-8 victory on Senior Day.
“It’s really important for us to go out with a win for our seniors,” junior Blake Edwards said. “They’ve done a lot of work, they are really great guys, and the team loves them.”
The afternoon’s festivities began with a ceremony honoring the team’s two graduating seniors: Gerrit Hall and Mac Carden. Hill is a transfer who has spent his past two years on the team. Carden is a fifth year senior and won two national championships in his time at USC.
“It’s great [to get a win], but it’s sad at the same time because it’s one of our last home games,” Carden said. “This whole team is like your family now, but it’s been a pretty sweet run.”
Carden is also revered by his fellow teammates as a role model and leader.
“Mac is a really good leader, he’s a friend to everyone, he’s very supportive,” Edwards said. “He’s always open to talk, particularly to the young guys, he’s done a lot of work mentoring them throughout the season.”
With the win, the Trojans moved to 6-2 in MPSF conference play and 18-4 overall. It also ends a two-game losing streak.
“We worked extremely hard this week, we worked on a lot of stuff, but we still have a lot to work on,” Edwards said.
The Trojans found their offensive rhythm in a game that showcased their high scoring capabilities. After shaking off a slow start, the Trojans and the Anteaters were neck-and-neck after the first period with the Trojans up 3-2.
USC opened up the gap during the second period, in which they outscored UCI 5-1.
“Throughout the season our defense has been our best stat, and the past few games the other offense has really hurt us,” Edwards said.
Sophomore goalie McQuin Baron stood tall in goal for USC with 11 saves on the day. The defense turned into offense for the Trojans, who were led by Edwards. He finished the day with four goals.
“All the work was done beforehand starting with good defense, good transition, good balance,” Edwards said. “Then the person who made the pass, they were really well executed passes, and I just had to put the ball away it was quite easy.”
Edwards wasn’t the only Trojan who found his groove, as the plethora of USC goals was spread throughout the team. Sophomore Matteo Morelli finished the game with a hat trick. Freshman James Walters and sophomore Grant Stein each connected twice for USC, and three other Trojans netted single goals to cap off the Trojans scoring spree.
Looking ahead, the Trojans will head across town to take on the No. 1 UCLA Bruins next Sunday in Westwood. The team is expecting a hard week of practice leading into the teeth of their schedule beginning with UCLA, and continuing on to the MPSF tournament and the NCAA championships.