Following two decisive victories against top-10 opponents in Long Beach State and Pepperdine last weekend, the No. 1 men’s water polo team will compete against former players Saturday before taking on Pacific University this Sunday.
The annual Water Polo Alumni Day involves both men’s and women’s programs. The women’s game will kick off at 9 a.m., while the men will play at 10 a.m. for alumni who graduated before 2007 and 11 a.m. for those from 2008-2018. During Saturday’s festivities, the water polo program will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first national championship victory in 1988.
After Alumni Day, the Men of Troy will face a non-conference opponent in Pacific. Pacific enters the week as a top-10 team. Despite a 9-8 record, they are undefeated in conference play. The Tigers narrowly defeated No. 5 UC Santa Barbara before suffering a tough loss at No. 2 Stanford this past weekend.
In the previous matchup between USC and Pacific on Sept. 22, the Tigers propelled themselves to a strong early lead, ending the first period with a 4-1 advantage over the Trojans. However, the Men of Troy demonstrated their resilience in a comeback with five straight Trojan goals in the second period. After pulling ahead of the Tigers, the Trojans never conceded their lead. The match ended in an 11-8 USC victory, one of the toughest victories this season.
“I think [this] weekend we just want to improve on making our easy opportunities, putting them away and not wasting any chances,” sophomore driver Marko Vavic said. “We need to make sure we capitalize on those.”
On Sunday, the Trojan defense must be wary of Pacific’s redshirt junior utility Luke Pavillard. Pavillard posted 2 goals against the Trojans in their last encounter, and leads his team in scoring so far this season with 55 goals through 17 games. Another offensive threat for the Tigers is junior attacker Engin Ege Colak, who has put up 53 goals in 17 games.
To counter the Tigers’ attack, the Trojans will look to whoever is in the cage. Freshman goalie Nic Porter is third in the MPSF in average goals allowed per game with 6.84.
Although defense has been one of the Trojans’ focal points this season, the team also recognizes the importance of finishing its chances on the other end of the pool. This was an area the Trojans struggled in during the first period against Pacific.
Vavic sets an example for his teammates in this regard, as he has been the Trojans’ top scorer over the past two seasons. Last Sunday, Vavic reached 100 goals, an impressive mark for a player who has not yet completed his second season. He and the other returning players, including senior driver Zach D’Sa, will lead the Trojan attack this weekend.
Along with tactical preparation geared specifically toward Pacific, the Trojans have continued to focus on sharpening their critical skills.
“We’re just trying to improve on the basic fundamentals of the game every day at practice,” freshman 2-meter Jake Ehrhardt said. “At this point, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We know how to win, and we just need to continue to do that.”
USC’s match against Pacific begins at 1 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatic Center on Sunday.