The No. 2 men’s water polo team, fresh off a 8-4 victory at No. 5 Stanford, will play No. 19 Santa Clara (4-4) on Friday to open up the Mountain Pacific Invitational held at UC Berkeley. A win there pits them against the winner of No. 7 Long Beach State and No. 11 UC Davis.
After recording his 500th career victory as the head coach of the men’s team against Stanford, Jovan Vavic heads into the weekend with the goal of coming out with 504 wins to his name (USC could potentially play four matches it if advances to the championship).
If USC goes perfect in the tournament, a number one ranking could be waiting.
This season, the Men of Troy have exhibited supreme defense, allowing just 17 goals in six games despite playing four top-25 teams.
Leading the way is Team USA’s goalie, junior McQuin Baron, who shut down Stanford’s power play opportunities thanks to eight saves. His goaltending provides excellent coverage of top opposing scorers, and Baron receives a lot of credit for the USC defense.
The Trojans’ defense can also lead to offense — on a power play opportunity, freshman driver Marin Dasic blocked a potential goal that junior driver Grant Stein converted into a score for the Trojans.
Although Stanford earned 2 goals apiece in the second and fourth periods off of a USC deflection and penalty shot, the Men of Troy’s offense was potent.
Along with Stein and junior Blake Edward’s two goals each, junior James Walters and freshmen Thomas Dunstan, Matt Maier and Dasic all netted goals for the Trojans.
Against Stanford, the Trojans played typical USC water polo: breaking out of the gates firing on all cylinders (3-0 after one quarter) and finishing the game strong (3 goals in the final quarter).
This weekend, the undefeated Trojans hope to continue their streak against a Santa Clara team that has experienced adversity this season on its way to a No. 19 ranking.
The Broncos, with an even 4-4 record, look to upset the Trojans despite a two-game losing streak. Against Pacific and UC Davis, Santa Clara was outscored 32-7 as the Tigers and Aggies netted around 50 percent of their shot attempts.
Along with a defense that has allowed an average of 10.1 goals per game, the Broncos offense has only netted an average of six goals per game in their four losses.
If USC can get on the board early, the Trojans should be able to dominate the time of possession numbers and control the tempo of the game.
After Santa Clara, USC will have a much more formidable opponent in either the UC Davis Aggies or the Long Beach State 49ers. Of the two, USC should prepare for Davis, as it is the stronger of the two teams.
In 10 games this season, the Aggies have scored 13.2 goals per game, while allowing 7.9. Thanks to a myriad of scorers, UC Davis can score from all sides of the pool. Cory Laidig, Riley Venne, Sasa Antunovic, Ido Goldschmidt, Morgan Olson-Fabbro and Marcus Anderson all have scored 12 goals or more in 2016. Considering this balanced attack, USC’s defense could be in for an offensive slugfest come Saturday.