The No. 1 USC men’s water polo team takes the trip to No. 9 UC Santa Barbara this afternoon at 4 p.m. They are looking to continue a statistical balance that has brought them to the top of collegiate water polo this season.
Second in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in goals per game, the Trojans (18-1, 4-0), surprisingly, do not have a player among the leaders in goals per game in the conference. Senior two-meter Shea Buckner, who leads the team with 29 scores, ranks just 16th in the MPSF in goals per game, a statistic that speaks to just how spread out the team’s offense has been this season.
“We have an incredibly balanced team this year,” junior driver Devon Borisoff said. “Anybody can take over and have a great game, that’s what’s makes us so dangerous.”
The Gauchos (9-8, 0-1) have already experienced the multifaceted attack of the Trojans’ offense twice this season, but this will be the first time either team is considered the home team in the contest, as the other two meetings between the two teams were at neutral site tournaments.
In the two matchups between the squads, 17 different Trojans scored, including Buckner and Borisoff, and USC won both contests by a combined 25 goals.
“[In our victories] we just stayed focused on the gameplan and everyone focused on their own roles,” Borisoff said.
In stark contrast to the Trojans’ balanced offense, the Gauchos’ attack centers on junior Milos Golic, whose 42 goals this season is good enough to tie him atop the conference leaderboard.
Named last week’s MPSF Co-Player of the Week, Golic enters the match coming off a six-goal performance against Long Beach State last Saturday during a thrilling four-overtime loss against the 49ers. Golic scored four of the Gauchos’ final five goals.
Gaucho sophomore two-meter Noah Smith and utility player junior Zsombor Vincze, who combine with Golic for one of the MPSF’s leading trio of goal scoring teammates, will also put a strain on the Trojan’s defense, which ranks first in the MPSF.
In a quirk of scheduling and coincidence, the Trojans played three games before facing UCSB at the Triton Invitational, and now, with the season winding down, USC will have just three games remaining in the regular season following today’s matchup.
But as the MPSF Championships and a possible berth in the NCAA tournament approach, the Trojans don’t let the coming weeks throw them off track.
“It’s just business as usual,” Borisoff said.