The top-ranked USC Trojans (25-1) picked up their 25th win of the season on Saturday at Uytengsu Aquatics Center in a 10-5 victory over the No. 5 Pacific Tigers (7-11).
Six Trojans scored to aid in the takedown. Freshman driver Hannes Daube and sophomore driver Jacob Mercep both contributed hat tricks.
Daube and Mercep were the ones to start the scoring momentum, putting USC at a 2-0 lead in the first period. After 14 drives without either side netting a goal, freshman two-meter Jake Ehrhart put up a goal in the second period to give the Trojans a three-point lead. Pacific managed to get onto the scoreboard one minute and 48 seconds before halftime.
The third period saw big momentum and consistent scoring from both sides. Sophomore driver Marko Vavic scored off an assist from Mercep for his 50th goal of the season. Pacific answered back, but sophomore driver Sawyer Rhodes scored a skip shot goal to give the Trojans a three-goal lead – once again – at 5-2. Mercep followed by putting up his second score of the day. Pacific responded almost immediately before Daube scored his second goal of the game to let the Trojans lead 7-4 at the end of the third period.
USC did not let up in the final frame, scoring a burst of three unanswered goals from Mercep, Daube, and junior driver Marin Dasic. Pacific netted one final goal for a 10-5 finish.
“[Freshman goalie Nic Porter] shut it down early and killed their hopes,” redshirt junior Daniel Leong said.
The Trojans played solid defense, giving up only one goal in the first half. The defense was anchored by Porter, who had seven saves throughout the game.
“We didn’t really get flowing offensively until later in the game, but I think our defense kept us ahead,” Mercep said. “We certainly played a good defense, kept them on five goals even, though some goals we could’ve avoided.”
Pacific sophomore goalie John Hedges anchored their defense with 9 saves. This was his tenth straight game recording five or more saves. Junior Luis Araya lead the Tigers in scoring with three goals, his third hat trick of the season. Freshman Jonathan Cooper and freshman Aidan Jang had scores of their own.
In the week leading up to this match, the team did a good job of analyzing the Tigers’ game and preparing for what was coming.
“Every week we go through their rotations and some of the plays that we know they’re running,” Leong said. “So we just try to prepare ourselves for that, study their plays and study how they play us a little differently. They have two lefties that were really good so we made it a point to shut them down. The center is also really strong so those were the main points.”
Next week, USC hosts Cal on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The game will be broadcasted on television on the Pac-12 network. The Trojans will travel to UC Irvine on Sunday for another 1 p.m. matchup.
Both Mercep and Leong say that intensity will be a key focus in the games next weekend.
“The most important thing is to come out with a lot of energy,” Leong said. “When we’re playing teams like that, momentum can be huge in those games. So we kind of just have to start off firing from the beginning and hopefully get an early lead.”