The No. 2-ranked USC men’s water polo team got back in the winning column Saturday with two blowout wins over No. 11-ranked Princeton and Whittier in their home opener at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
The doubleheader began with the Trojans netting a 22-4 win over a strong Princeton team and immediately following it up with a 23-2 rout of Whittier for the second time this season. With the pair of wins, USC (12-1) also extends its 30-game home winning streak.
This comes just a week after crosstown rival UCLA snapped the Trojan’s 41-game winning streak in the championship game of the NorCal Tournament 9-8.
USC started slow against Princeton, as both teams were scoreless in the first four minutes.
The Trojans, however, would start their offensive outpour soon after beginning with a goal by senior two-meter Connor Virjee. With that goal, the team would take a 1-0 advantage, and there was no looking back from there as redshirt junior driver Zach Lucas put a goal in just 30 seconds later.
The theme of the day for the Trojans was “spreading the love,” as eight different Trojans netted USC’s first eight goals and 13 different USC players scored on the day.
The main emphasis of the day though, according to USC head coach Jovan Vavic, was not offense but defense.
“We really wanted to focus on playing better defense, and I felt like we did a much better job with our half-pool defense,” Vavic said.
Redshirt sophomore two-meter player Mac Carden came up big for the Trojans against Princeton. Carden had four goals on the day, but had great defensive intensity as well.
“[Carden] had a lot of steals on defense today and was playing harder than anyone on our team, which was motivating us to raise our intensity,” senior utility player Mace Rapsey said.
The Trojans were up on the Tigers 10-4 before a 12-goal offensive outburst that gave them the 22-4 win. Drivers Lucas, junior Kostas Genidounias, senior Nikola Vavic and Rapsey had hat tricks in the win, while senior two-meter Jeremy Davie and junior driver Marc Vonderweidt also had multigoal games with two each. Senior James Clark recorded double-digit saves in goal with 10.
“We had a great scoring day on offense and it was nice to see so many people getting on the board,” Vonderweidt said.
Following a short break, the team continued its scoring run against Whittier, blasting 11 straight goals into the back of the net to take a big early lead. The Poets would eventually get on the board late in the first half with a man-up goal by attacker Nicholas Beavers.
Eleven different USC players would score against the Poets and a plethora of players would have multigoal games led by Genidounias, who had four. Vavic, redshirt junior Ivan Kustic and Carden also had hat tricks. Sophomore Aleck Ryner and redshirt junior Paul Mitre would relieve Clark in goal and netted eight saves in a combined effort.
And though the elder Vavic was happy with his team’s performance on defense, he wasn’t very impressed with his team’s large scoring output, mainly because of the many goal-scoring opportunities that it didn’t capitalize on.
“We basically missed 15 one or nobodies today, so we need to do a much better job finishing and be more focused in those situations,” coach Vavic said.
USC will stay at home and jump into Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play next Saturday, Oct. 5 against UC Irvine. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
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