Unlike the USC football team, the No. 2-ranked USC men’s water polo team was unable to overcome No.4-ranked Stanford, who netted an overtime buzzer beater to upset the Trojans 17-16 on Senior Day in a Saturday matinee at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. USC (23-3, 5-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) was able to bounce back with a 10-8 win on Sunday against No. 8-ranked Long Beach State in the team’s final regular season home game.
When it appeared that a sudden-death overtime period was on the horizon, Stanford’s Paul Rudolph scored from long distance at the buzzer to shock the Trojans and prevail on the road. The most important goal of the game was Rudolph’s fourth on the day.
The loss also snapped USC’s 35-game home win streak.
“It was definitely tough to swallow, but as the season goes on, we just have to learn from our mistakes and grow from it,” redshirt junior driver Zach Lucas said. “It was a good learning opportunity for us.”
Stanford (18-4, 6-1 MPSF) led the Trojans for the majority of the game before USC clawed its way back to tie the game and eventually take a two-goal lead, 15-13, in overtime on goals by senior driver Nikola Vavic and senior two-meter Connor Virjee.
Stanford, however, capitalized on a six-on-five situation to come back and tie the game at 15-15 heading into the second frame of overtime.
In the second overtime period, senior utility Mace Rapsey struck a quick shot into the net to give the Trojans a one-goal edge before the Cardinal’s Alex Bowen tallied the equalizer and his fifth goal of the game with just 33 seconds remaining.
Rapsey led the Trojans in scoring with four goals, while Virjee, junior driver Kostas Genidounias and Vavic all piled up hat tricks. Senior goalie James Clark made seven saves in goal.
Looking to rebound against Long Beach State, the Trojans did exactly that and finished the home portion of their schedule on the right note, defeating the 49ers for the second time this season.
“We came back and regrouped as a team,” senior two-meter Jeremy Davie said. “Everyone refocused on what we need to do, and we worked hard as a team to get another victory.”
Lucas tallied a hat trick to lead the Trojan scoring attack, while Genidounias added two goals of his own.
“We played more for each other today, and we wanted to make our last game at home a strong one,” Lucas said. “Our passing and communication on offense and defense was also a lot better.”
USC led 4-3 at the half, but put in three goals in the third period to establish some more breathing room, leading 7-4 heading into the final period, where they were outscored by the 49ers 4-3 to close out the game.
The Trojans will next travel across town to take on rival UCLA on Thursday in Westwood, Calif. The Bruins will be looking to avenge a 12-11 overtime defeat in the championship game of the SoCal Tournament. USC won the game on a buzzer-beating goal by Genidounias.
“We’re always excited to play the Bruins,” Davie said. “It’s a crosstown rivalry, the last game of the regular season, and we’re going to come out on fire.”
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