Men’s water polo looks to continue its momentum

Sophomore driver Marko Vavic has averaged 3 goals in each game. He has scored in all seven games. (Isabelle Fagan | Daily Trojan)

With a decisive win coming last Thursday against Concordia Irvine and a clean sweep of the Inland Empire Classic this past weekend, the top-ranked men’s water polo team moved to 7-0 this season. The Trojans look to continue their form this weekend at the annual Aggie Roundup, hosted by UC Davis.

Last Thursday saw prolific scoring from the Trojans en route to a 32-7 win at home against Concordia Irvine. Sophomore drivers Jacob Mercep and Marko Vavic, and freshman driver Hannes Daube netted 4 goals apiece for the Trojans. Freshman Jake Ehrhart also impressed with six steals.

The Trojans continued their string of dominance the following weekend at the Inland Empire Classic, where they outscored opponents 83-14.

The first day of the tournament featured victories over Redlands and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, with the Trojans winning 23-2 and 17-2 respectively. Daube and Ehrhart led the Trojans in scoring, with 5 and 4 goals, respectively, while freshman keeper Nic Porter denied 10 Redlands shots to keep a second half clean sheet. The Trojan offense kept their momentum against Claremont, with Vavic claiming 4 goals and Mercep scoring 3 goals. Goalies sophomore Vaios Vlahotasios and redshirt freshman Matt Moran-Flores split time in the cage, allowing only one CMS goal each.

Day two saw action against Concordia Irvine and La Verne, and the Trojans won by scores of 23-5 and 20-5, respectively. USC’s rematch against the Eagles saw familiar names pop up at the top of the score sheet, with Vavic scoring five times and Mercep four. The Trojans followed that up with a comprehensive win over La Verne, led by redshirt junior Sam Slobodien’s hat trick to close out a successful weekend.

Vavic finished the weekend with 13 goals, while Mercep hit 10 to combine for over a quarter of USC’s offense at the tournament. Vavic now leads USC with 21 goals on the season so far, ahead of Mercep’s 16.

The Trojans will be heading into this weekend with high expectations. This season has seen each game won by a margin of at least 15, and the squad already has a plethora of players with 10-plus goals on the season. Daube has been a huge factor in the Trojans’ success, earning MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors highlighted by a 5 goal effort against Redlands.

However, USC has yet to face a top-10 opponent; two strong programs in UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis, ranked No. 7 and No. 8 respectively, will be gunning to take down the mighty Trojans on day one of the Aggie Roundup. UC Santa Barbara gave USC one of its closer games last season, as the Trojans won 6-3. The No. 7 Gauchos will be looking to avenge their loss after a strong start to the year, having only fallen to Cal so far.

UC Davis also looks to be a strong contender, with a solid start only marred by close losses to Cal and Harvard — both of whom featured at the NCAA Championship last December.

Day two of the Aggie Roundup will likely be a return to form for the Trojans, who will look to repeat against Whittier. USC will match up against Fresno Pacific, a team they handily beat 24-3 last season, later on Sunday.

The action begins Saturday at 9:15 a.m. against UCSB, followed by a matchup against host UC Davis at 1 p.m., while Sunday’s games against Whittier and Fresno Pacific are slated for 10:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.