The senior class delivered on Senior Day at McDonald’s Swim Stadium, handily defeating UC Irvine 15-9 on Saturday and helping the USC men’s water polo team complete a fifth straight undefeated home record.
Yet, for all the gratification of their final regular season victory, the No. 1 Trojans (22-1, 8-0) know they have bigger games in the not-too-distant future.
“This victory is a moot point to us,” senior two-meter J.W. Krumpholz said. “We have three much more important games coming up next week at MPSF.”
Winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament would mean an automatic berth in the NCAA Championships. The Trojans used Saturday’s contest against the No. 7 Anteaters (15-11, 3-5) to prepare and iron out some of the wrinkles exposed in their overtime victory against Stanford last weekend.
Having already clinched the MPSF tournament’s top ranking, the Trojans were able to play a squad of mainly seniors, and the group got out to a fast start.
Sprinting out to five goals in the first quarter, senior two-meters Jordan Thompson and Krumpholz both contributed goals in the first period to help the Trojans take a 5-2 lead at the game’s first break.
Led by senior driver Justin Rappel’s two goals, the Trojans came out for the second period just as hot as they were to open the game — and scored five more — racing out to a 10-4 lead that the team would not look back from.
Both teams locked down on defense after the halftime break, as the Trojans were only able to convert scoring opportunities when playing with a man-up advantage, an area in which the Trojans have been strong all year.
“Getting two-meter opportunities and earning ejections are both very important for us,” sophomore driver Peter Kurzeka said. “Six-on-five is our strongest area, along with our counterattack offense.”
Kurzeka would finish the game with a hat trick.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Trojans were up a commanding seven goals, allowing some of the other seniors to get opportunities to contribute as their regular season careers came to an end.
The seniors and backups continued the team’s strong performance, giving up just three goals and scoring two, including redshirt freshman two-meter Brian Boswell’s score from up close midway through the final period.
Although the Trojans were able to win by six goals, the nine goals scored by the Anteaters were still too many in the Trojans’ point of view.
“Our offense was connecting today, but on defense, we’re still not exactly where we want to be — to hold teams to four goals or less,” Kurzeka said.