The men’s water polo team showed off its depth against San Jose State on Saturday as 16 members of the roster scored at least one goal in the Trojans’ 24-8 victory at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Since it was Senior Day, it couldn’t be more fitting that out of those 16, every player in USC’s 13-man senior class got on the scoresheet. The Trojans were sharp on both offense and defense, giving the team confidence heading into its final three matches of the regular season — and then onto the MPSF Tournament and NCAA Championships.
“I think we are the most well-balanced team in the competition for sure,” senior driver Blake Edwards said. “Our list goes very deep, and that’s just from the last three years and how the program has rebuilt us. It’s definitely a strength that we have because, for other teams’ defenses, it’s going to be really hard to stop us because anyone can step up on any day and any occasion.”
Four players — senior utility James Walters, senior driver Grant Stein, freshman driver Marko Vavic and sophomore driver Marin Dasic — all scored hat tricks before the final whistle. Stein, Vavic and Dasic put up 2 goals each to start the Trojans off strong in the first period before Walters added a goal to stake them an early 7-0 lead. By the second period, Dasic had already completed his hat trick. In the third period of play, every goal was scored by a senior as the USC defense shut the Spartans out in the period. The list of scorers continued to grow, and San Jose State never had a chance to make a comeback.
“Offensively, we looked quite good today,” Edwards said. “We made some really good passes and finished the high-percentage opportunities.”
On the defensive end, the Trojans held San Jose State to 8 goals. Four of those goals came from Jacob Mercep, who continued to pester USC even in the face of an impossible deficit. Senior goalie McQuin Baron saved seven shots in three periods before redshirt sophomore Simon Wu entered the cage in the fourth quarter and claimed a save of his own.
However, as always, the Trojans are looking ahead at what they need to improve for the next game.
“I think tightening up our defense a little bit,” Edwards said. “[Cal has] some real weapons that we need to stop down and shut out.”
Looking forward to facing the Bears next Saturday, the Trojans used this game as preparation and practice for what is to come. Naturally, USC has been itching for a rematch, as Cal defeated the Trojans in the NCAA title match last season.
“We had a couple of things we wanted to work on for Cal next weekend, which is our main focus and has been our main focus for the last couple of weeks,” Edwards said.
That focus translated to the game against San Jose State and its overall score, but the team is still looking to keep improving its defense, which has been one of the Trojans’ main goals for the season. They know that defense wins games and that their offense is not their struggle, as they exhibited this weekend.
“[Cal] has a few guys who are real scorers, and we’re going to have to play really tight defense on those guys and their impact on the game,” Edwards said. “But ultimately, we just have to come fired up and ready for a showdown.”
As they have been doing all season, the Trojans are already looking ahead to the next game before their victory celebration was finished — but that just goes to show how focused the team is on its end goal. The next step is taking on the team that stole USC’s prize last year, and the Trojans certainly are not planning to let that happen again.
“We’re looking good, we’re hungry, we’re fired up and we’re ready to go and play them next weekend,” Edwards said.