Men’s water polo wins MPSF Invitational

Junior driver Chris Sturtevant gets ready to launch the ball during a game with his teammate to his right.
Men’s water polo faced multiple ranked opponents on the way to their title in the MPSF Invitational. (Andrew Kerner | Daily Trojan) 

No. 1 USC put its unbeaten record to the test this weekend in the MPSF Invitational Tournament as the team faced off against some of the best ranked teams in the country. The Trojans improved their record to 10-0 on the season and were a force to be reckoned with throughout the tournament. USC beat No. 7 UC Davis, No. 3 Stanford and hosts No. 3 Cal to capture the title.

USC went into the invitational as one of the favorites to win, as it received a first-round bye along with No. 1 UCLA. USC took on UC Davis for a second straight week and won 13-8. Seven different Trojans scored in the match. USC finished on Saturday with a much closer game against Stanford, winning 15-8. The Trojans took control with four stretches of scoring two or more goals in short succession. The Trojans picked up their first win against Stanford since 2019, snapping a three-game losing streak against the Cardinal. USC finished having never trailed, heading into the title match against California.

The Trojans stormed out of the gates quickly in the title match as redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen scored within 18 seconds, and fellow redshirt junior driver Hannes Daube scored three minutes later to grow the lead to 2-0. The Golden Bears scored twice before the Trojans would find the back of the net again. Molthen helped answer back to grab USC one more goal before halftime, but Cal followed suit as the game deadlocked at 3-3 at the half. 

Head coach Marko Pintaric was pleased with the team’s overall performance in the first half.

“Our defense really stood up in preventing Cal from scoring,” Pintaric said. “We just [needed] to keep up the intensity and the offense will come, and pretty much just stick to the game plan.”

USC was able to hang on to a one-goal lead entering the final quarter of play as Molthen got his hat-trick scoring with just four seconds remaining in the third quarter to make it 8-7. A mere 41 seconds after seeing Cal tie it up again, the Trojans went on a 4-1 run for the next three and a half minutes to take a 12-9 lead. USC would then surrender two quick goals, but, after that, the Trojans’ defense held strong thanks in part to senior goalkeeper Nic Porter. Porter had 14 total saves, including huge power play saves down the stretch and two clutch saves in the final minute to stop the Golden Bears from forcing overtime.

The Trojans came away victorious, defeating California by a score of 12-11. 

Despite the win, Pintaric said he feels the team has to improve on putting the easy opportunities away.

“That kind of allows the opponent to stay close to us,” Pintaric said. “This is something that we are constantly addressing, and constantly working on … To win high importance water polo games, you have to put those opportunities away.”

Having made it through half of the season, the Trojans are looking to ride their hot streak into the NCAA tournament where they hope to reclaim their crown as champions.

The Trojans have only one game next week as they host No. 8 Pacific at 1 p.m. Saturday at Uytengsu.