Water polo dominates two ranked California foes

Sophomore driver Marko Vavic netted his 100th career goal on Sunday. He has scored 49 goals this season. (Josh Dunst | Daily Trojan)

The No. 1 USC men’s water polo took down two ranked opponents last weekend: No. 8 Long Beach State on Saturday and No. 6 Pepperdine on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Trojans produced the first five scores of the game, shutting out the 49ers for the entire first period in the 13-6 win. With just under five minutes left in the first half, Long Beach State got on the scoreboard, but USC quickly answered back with redshirt junior driver Daniel Leong’s second goal of the day. After an ensuing goal from the 49ers, the Trojans answered 22 seconds later — this time with a goal by senior driver Zach D’Sa, his third of the day.

Long Beach State closed the gap to 7-4 in the third period, but not for long as USC posted 5 more goals, including one from freshman driver Hannes Daube to beat the third quarter buzzer. The 49ers managed to score 2 final goals in the fourth quarter but were never able to challenge the Trojans’ command of the game. Freshman goalie Nic Porter anchored the defense with six saves in the victory.

“[The team] did a lot of preparation for Long Beach because they’re not a top four team, but they’re one of those teams that if you take lightly they could get you,” sophomore driver Marko Vavic said.

On Sunday, Vavic scored his 100th career goal and was one of 12 Trojans to score in the 17-6 victory over Pepperdine.

USC started off hot with goals from freshman two-meter man Jake Ehrhardt and sophomore driver Jacob Mercep. Pepperdine eventually answered to get on the board. The match stayed close at 2-1 for the majority of the first period. In the final minute of the quarter, the Trojans kicked into gear with 2 goals to go up 4-1. The Trojans’ rally continued with goals from sophomore driver Sawyer Rhodes, junior 2-meter Matt Maier, redshirt junior 2-meter Sam Slobodien, junior driver Marin Dasic and Vavic to extend their lead to 9-1.  

The Waves responded with one 5-meter penalty shot goal before halftime and 2 back-to-back goals at the start of the second half to narrow the Trojans’ lead to 9-4. The Trojans regained control and piled on goals to post a 17-6 finish. Freshman goalie Sam Krutonog led the defense with seven saves before sophomore goalie Vaios Vlahotasios took over in the fourth period with three saves of his own.

“We did a really good job of making passes and not being selfish,” Vavic said. “We had a lot of opportunities where someone could’ve taken a shot and scored, but it’s much easier to make one more pass instead of trying to get all the fame by scoring.”

Ehrhardt said that with a 24-1 record the Trojans need to keep the intensity up through the final weeks of the season.

“It’s not really game-by-game; it’s the whole season, it’s really a process,” Ehrhardt said. “We lost at Stanford a few weeks ago and we knew that ever since then we weren’t really indestructible and we could lose any game. We’re just coming out at every game with super high intensity, just executing the game plan.”

On Saturday, both the women’s and men’s water polo teams will host the Alumni Games on at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively, where they will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program’s first-ever national championship, won by the men’s team in 1998. On Sunday, the Trojans host Pacific for a non-conference match at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.