The USC men’s water polo team has played twelve games this season, eleven of them away from the friendly confines of McDonald’s Swim Stadium. But after a victory over Pacific on Sunday upped their road record to 10-1, the road is starting to look like home for the Trojans.
The No. 3 Trojans (12-1, 3-0) had claimed a 35-7 all-time record against the Tigers prior to their match up in Stockton, Calif., and continued their success with a 10-7 victory, but the three-goal margin of victory was far less than in years past. During their 2008 campaign, the Trojans averaged a seven-goal margin of victory during their two regular season wins over Pacific, but this year’s first meeting between the two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foes proved much closer.
The Trojans got to the Pacific defense early in the first quarter, when just 22 seconds in senior two-meter Shea Buckner converted on a penalty shot to put the Trojans up 1-0.
After a defensive opening quarter saw the Trojans up 2-1, the Trojans turned to their offense to provide the statement in the second quarter, scoring three unanswered goals to open the period. Sophomore driver Peter Kurzeka, and senior two-meters J.W. Krumpholz and Jordan Thompson all scored to give the Trojans a 5-2 lead heading to halftime.
The third quarter opened much like the second, as the Trojans scored two easy unanswered goals and coasted from there.
The Trojans may have taken their foot off the gas a little too much, as the Tigers creeped to within three, but a goal from senior driver Justin Rappel rendered a last minute goal from Tiger senior Joey Rossi unimportant as the Trojans escaped with the 10-7 victory.
The Trojan’s close victory over Pacific completed a weekend of close victories, which had begun with an airtight 8-6 victory over No. 4 California, as part of the Weekender series, held prior to the football game in front of a packed Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley.
Playing in their first MPSF contest of the season, the Golden Bears were looking to avenge an early season loss to the Trojans at the NorCal Tournament, where the teams had played in the consolation championship game, and the Trojans had walked away with an 8-6 victory and third place in the tournament.
The opening quarter went by slowly, as both teams attempted and failed to convert on 6-5 advantages. Near the end of the first quarter, the Trojans were able to break the scoreless tie on a lob shot by senior driver Matt Sagehorn.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Thompson added a goal of his own to put the Trojans up 2-0.
The Trojan defense, led by sophomore goalie Joel Dennerly (11 saves), held against a strong California attack, but was broken late in the second quarter by Cal junior Brian Dudley. The Golden Bear’s first goal of the game would prove to be the only score its offense could muster until two minutes remained in the third quarter.
In between Dudley’s score and Cal sophomore Luka Saponjic’s goal with 2:06 left in the third period, Rappel and redshirt junior driver Kyle Sterling each netted two goals apiece to put the Trojans up 6-1, a score from which the Trojans coasted to victory.
Kurzeka and Krumpholz added two fourth quarter goals, while the Trojan defense stuttered a bit, giving up three goals to a motivated California attack, but still ended the game with a 8-6 victory, the same score by which the Trojans had beat the Golden Bears at the NorCal Tournament.
The Trojans can now look forward to Friday, when No. 19 Princeton (7-5) comes to McDonald’s, as the Trojans will finally get a chance to rest their road warrior mentality and play for the home crowd.