Men’s water polo dominates in weekend tournament

Sophomore driver Jacob Mercep has scored 24 goals in his first season as a Trojan after transferring from San José State. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

Over the weekend, the No. 1 USC men’s water polo team emerged victorious after competing in the Aggie RoundUp in Davis, Calif. The Trojans competed in four consecutive matches  facing two top-10 opponents for the first time, kicking off a strong of victories.

The Aggie RoundUp began with the Trojans facing No. 7 UC Santa Barbara. The morning matchup opened with back-to-back blasts from USC senior driver Zach D’Sa and sophomore driver Jacob Mercep each scoring 2 goals apiece, before UCSB answered back with 2 of their own to lock up the score 2-2. Ultimately, the Trojans dominated the game with a 10-3 win.

USC continued its momentum with another victory against host No. 8 UC Davis, delivering a 16-9 win. Ten different Trojans added to the scoreboard, fueling the lead against Davis. Freshman driver Hannes Daube added a hat trick while redshirt driver Daniel Leong, two-meter junior Matt Maier, Mercep and D’Sa recorded 2 points apiece.

Saturday’s wins bolstered the Trojans’ start to a 9-0 overall record.

The Trojans powered through the next day, beating Whittier College 13-2 and Fresno Pacific 13-3 to finish out the Aggie RoundUp. USC scored the first 9 goals of the matchup against Whittier, dominating the match with a 9-0 halftime lead before the Poets broke through twice in the third frame. Two-meter redshirt junior Sam Slobodien and Maier racked up a combined 5 goals. Leong added to the scoreboard in the final minutes of the game, knocking in a pair of goals in the fourth while the defense clamped down on Whittier.

The Poets were held scoreless in the first, second and fourth frames of the 13-2 win, which marked the 10th win of the year for the Trojans.

An important asset to the Trojans’ victories this weekend was sophomore goalie Vaios Vlahotasios, who gathered nine saves in his first complete-game effort as a Trojan.

In the second and final game of the day, the Trojans dominated against Fresno Pacific. USC’s powerhouse defense shut out Fresno Pacific for 20 minutes, entering the fourth period with an 11-2 advantage. Eight different Trojans combined for those 11 goals, with sophomore driver Marko Vavic, junior driver Marin Dasic and Leong each delivering a pair.

As USC wrapped up the event, the 12th and 13th  scores for the day came from sophomore driver Christian Hockenbury and freshmen utility Alexander Lansill, ending the game with a 13-3 win over the Sunbirds.

The No. 1-ranked Trojans return home to Uytengsu Aquatics Center for a single home game against Pacific at 1 p.m. on Sept. 22.