No. 1 Trojans look to keep their record perfect

The top-ranked USC men’s water polo team (3-0) will play in its first home match of the season Saturday against No. 17 Cal Baptist (0-2).

Leading the pack · Senior two-meter Matt Burton is one of the captains on this year’s squad. He was a third-team All-American in 2011. – Mannat Saini | Daily Trojan

The match is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., while the annual Alumni Game that follows is scheduled for 11:45 a.m.

USC’s McDonald’s Swimming Stadium is hosting both the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and NCAA tournaments  this year, so Saturday’s match could be the first of many Trojan home victories this season.

USC steamrolled the competition over the weekend, winning their three games by a combined score of 65-10.

The Trojans squared off against Cal Baptist in the second weekend of the season in 2011 as well, and defeated the Lancers easily, 14-3.

Captain and senior two-meter Matt Burton, however, gave praise to the Lancers’ goalie, Austin Ramer.

“He’ll hit a man in stride at any time to create a quick goal,” Burton said. “He’s really dangerous on the counter attack.”

While the game will not have the intensity or competition that a matchup against a conference rival brings, it still provides valuable early-season experience.

“We did not execute high percentage opportunities enough,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “Some of our returning players did not play their best last weekend, and we want to see improvement on Saturday.”

Burton echoed Vavic’s attitude on how the team views Saturday’s game.

“It’s kind of like a dress rehearsal,” Burton said. “We’re going to test out plays and make sure we don’t make mental errors. We can get away with those here, but Cal and Stanford will punish you for those [mistakes].”

Additionally, these early non-conference matchups give the coaching staff more time to sort out positional battles before the level of competition and pressure increases during conference play.

For example, the race is between sophomore Ely Bonilla and freshman James Clark to replace Cutino Award Winner Joel Dennerley in goal.

Clark has yet to receive game time, but the talented backup for the Australian Olympic squad this summer is sure to see some action in the non-conference slate.

Additionally, the games leading up to MPSF play will give a better insight into who can fulfill the second half of a 1-2 scoring punch with junior driver Nikola Vavic after 2011’s leading scorer Peter Kurzeka’s graduation.

Vavic leads the team so far with 10 goals, while sophomore driver Kostas Genidounias is second with six goals. Redshirt junior driver Stephen Siri is third with five goals, while five other players are tied with four goals apiece.

In fact, 19 players already have notched a goal this season after 21 individual players put the ball in the net at least once last season.

Whether it’s balance or simply a slate of lower-caliber opponents that allow the backups and third-string to play significant minutes, this trend of variety in scoring will be sure to continue this Saturday, as well as throughout the non-conference schedule.