After a sweep of all five matchups last weekend, No. 1 USC looks to boost its record to 18-0 as it travels to Palo Alto to face No. 3 Stanford on Saturday.
Sophomore drivers Marco Vavic and Jacob Mercep lead the team in scoring with 39 and 31 goals, respectively. Freshman goalies Nic Porter and Sam Krutong anchor the defense with 50 and 47 saves, respectively.
The Cardinal enter the game also undefeated with an 8-0 record, their best start to the season since 2015. Five of those victories have been over nationally-ranked teams, making them USC’s highest-ranked opponent so far in 2018. The Trojans have won eight straight games over Stanford.
“It’ll be a bit of a daunting experience for some of the new guys on the team,” Porter said. “It’s going to be very exciting for us and we’ll do our best to make sure that … the younger guys are more than up to the task. We’ll get a win on the road.”
After heavy conditioning last week in training for a five-game weekend, head coach Jovan Vavic has been focusing on tactical work to prepare for the Stanford match.
The Trojans are looking to continue to work on building a cohesive dynamic on Saturday, a priority this season given so many young players on the roster.
“We’re coming up against a strong group of players at Stanford, and we’re going to have to match that and be better,” Porter said. “There’s not really one thing in particular we’re looking to work on. [We’re] just trying to sort out every aspect of our game as a team and do everything we can to get that win.”
Stanford junior driver Bennett Williams and sophomore driver Tyler Abramson with 25 and 24 goals, respectively, lead the Cardinal’s offense. Williams has scored in all eight matches this season, scoring multiple points in six of those games. Redshirt senior goalie Oliver Lewis mans the posts, averaging 12.5 saves and 4.7 goals against per game.
The game holds special meaning for sophomore transfer driver Sawyer Rhodes, who played for Stanford last season and has scored 9 goals in six games as a Trojan.
“I mean there’s a lot of emotions,” Rhodes said. “It’ll be my first time back on campus at Stanford, so I’m really excited. [I’m as] nervous as I am before any big game, so I think that’s good. This is what we’ve been training hard for, and we’ve played 17 games but haven’t had a challenge yet. So this will be our first one so we’ll see how good we really are.”
Rhodes scored 23 goals as a true freshman at Stanford last year, one of which came against USC in the pool that is now his home.
On Sunday, the Trojans return to Uytengsu Aquatics Center for a matchup against No. 16 San Jose State at noon. San Jose State enters the matchup with a 4-4 record after losing to Stanford 16-3 last week. Mercep, who played for San Jose State last season was a scoring powerhouse with 93 goals for the Spartans last season.
The loss of Mercep will be a hit to the Spartans, who are now led by top scorer sophomore Justin Pickering’s 13 goals and freshman goalie Yahav Fire’s 9.2 saves-per-game average. USC has won six straight matchups against San Jose State.
The Stanford game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Los Angeles and Pac-12 Bay Area and will also be streamed online.