In almost a complete turnaround from its last meeting, the men’s water polo team defeated the Anteaters 13-8 on Saturday. The last time the two teams faced off, the Trojans had to battle from behind before pulling off a victory in the last half of the fourth quarter. On Saturday, the Trojans secured a lead with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter and never relinquished it.
“We played them [when] our defense was a lot better,” junior driver Zach D’Sa said. “I think last time they scored around 9 or 10 goals and this time they only scored 6 against us really, so our defense was a lot better this game.”
While the Trojans maintained their lead throughout, the Anteaters went on a run in the third, gnawing at the lead and decreasing the deficit to just 3 goals. However, USC quickly squashed their chances of a comeback as freshman driver Marko Vavic had back-to-back goals and extended the lead to 10-5.
“I think we just kept having compound mistakes where we would have a chance on offense to make the advantage even bigger,” Vavic said. “And then we would miss that and go down, get ejected, get scored on. So, I think we switched and they had couple of those in a row and that let them get back in the game.”
For the Trojans, it played out exactly how they wanted. They preferred being in the lead and forcing the Anteaters to try and recover, unlike in their last meeting when the roles were reversed. Some Trojan players noticed that UC Irvine’s spirits fell as the time began running out on their hopes for a comeback.
“It made it a lot easier on us,” D’sa said. “Because the team started to give up and they got a little bit of hope back at the middle of the third quarter, but we squashed the hope.”
The Trojans accomplished more than just winning the game. With nine players scoring at least one goal, they proved that they have strong depth on their roster.
“It is definitely a confidence boost,” Vavic said. “It helps in future games for when we have big games and they will press out some of the better players, so they can’t score. It will give the other players that don’t score as much, much more confidence to shoot the ball and try to do their best.”
Overall, USC’s offense pushed the team out of reach, but it was its defense that sealed the victory. Every game, the Trojans discuss the importance of defense, and this one was no exception. They look at it as an opportunity to keep pushing forward and improve.
“Definitely, our counterattack was our strong point,” D’Sa said, “and I think defense can always be improved. We can always stop them more.”