The USC men’s water polo team defeated the visiting UC Irvine Anteaters 18-7 on Saturday within the friendly confines of Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
The Trojans entered the game ranked second in the nation and did nothing but help themselves ranking wise with a decisive win over the No. 9 Anteaters.
The key to the game for USC was a strong surge coming out of the gate led by a pair of seniors from Australia, two-meter Jeremy Davie and utility man Mace Rapsey. The two of them paired up with senior standout driver Nikola Vavic to put the Trojans up 7-0 early on in the contest.
Irvine responded with a pair of goals before the end of the first half, putting them at a 9-2 disadvantage heading into the last half of the game.
The Trojans came out strong however, and opened the third with three straight goals, including Rapsey’s fifth of the day, giving him 99 in his career as a Trojan. The Anteaters would not go down easy, but senior goalie James Clark made enough stops late to seal the Trojan’s 13th victory of the year.
Clark played the entirety of the contest, marking one of the first games of the season in which head coach Jovan Vavic did not use a goalie by committee approach, which gives sophomore Aleck Ryner and junior Paul Mitre a chance in goal.
Rapsey led all Trojans with five goals, followed by a four-goal performance from the highly underrated junior Kostas Genidounias. Genidounias was USC’s second leading scorer last year as a sophomore, when he tallied 68 scores, which was good enough for the fifth-best mark of single season goals all-time.
The Athens, Greece native is also renowned as one of the best defensive players for the Trojans, and was second on the team in steals last year with 37. His play this year has not dropped off a bit, as he quietly has been a steady contributor for the Trojans as they attempt to win their sixth straight national championship.
The match against Irvine was the Trojans first game in conference play, putting them at 1-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference play, and 13-1 overall.
The next action for the impressive squad will occur at the SoCal Tournament. The Trojans suffered their first loss of the season two weeks ago at the sister tournament, the NorCal Tournament. The loss in the championship game of the tournament against the crosstown rival UCLA Bruins marked the end of the NCAA-best 41 game winning streak .
Still, the team responded with three straight victories at home, the first two against a tough Princeton Tigers squad as well as the Whittier Poets last weekend and obviously this most recent victory against a top-ranked UC Irvine squad.
This next weekend will also be important for the younger Vavic, who is six goals away from taking over as USC’s all-time scoring leader. Coach Vavic’s son and one of USC’s most prolific water polo players currently clocks in at 215 goals, just five behind the immortal Olympian Juraj Zatovic who scored 220 during his four years as a Trojan.
The Trojans first contest of the SoCal Tournament will come on Saturday Oct. 12 against St. Francis from New York at 8 A.M. followed by a contest against the winner of Long Beach State versus LMU. The results of the two matchups for Saturday will determine who and when the Trojans play on Sunday. The tournament will be held in Irvine, Calif.
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