No. 1 USC faces No. 5 Cal in rematch of MPSF final

Senior goalkeeper Nic Porter makes a save with his left hand.
Senior goalie Nic Porter gets a save in the Trojans 16-9 victory over No. 6 Pacific Saturday that kept its undefeated season alive and extended their winning streak to 11. Porter leads the MPSF in saves with 11.3 per game. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

No. 1 USC hosts No. 5 Cal Saturday in the Trojans’ first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match of the season. The Trojans will head to Irvine Sunday to play No. 12 UC Irvine in their second match of the weekend. 

USC hopes to keep up its undefeated record and win its 12th and 13th games of the season.

USC easily handled No. 6 Pacific last weekend, beating the Tigers with a score of 16-9. The Trojans never trailed in the game and looked comfortable the entire time. Graduate transfer 2-meter Wyatt Barker, a former Tiger, and redshirt junior driver Hannes Daube each notched
hat-tricks in the win as USC got their 11th win of the year.

Looking ahead to this weekend, USC aims to repeat their victory against Cal from the MPSF Invitational Final last season, where they beat the Golden Bears 12-11. The all-time head-to-head record between the two teams is very close, with USC beating the Golden Bears 68 times and losing 63 times. 

Cal has only one other loss besides the loss to USC, so their form has not dropped since these two teams last met. If the MPSF final is any indicator for this game, it should be a tight matchup.

Head Coach Marko Pintaric hopes USC will improve from the last time the two teams played.

Pintaric wants the Trojans to “be more aware for the whole four quarters … not have periods of the game where we kind of wander off, especially when we have the lead.” 

Senior 2-meter Jake Ehrhardt said the team watched plenty of tape on Cal in preparation for this weekend as they are expecting a tough match.

“I see them coming out with way more aggression than we’ve seen all season,” Ehrhardt said. “They’re going to come back much stronger than we’ve seen all season.”

 After playing Cal, the Trojans will face off against UC Irvine for the first time this season. USC has beaten the Anteaters the last 33 times they have faced off, having last lost to them in the 2004 season. 

The Anteaters have a 7-6 record this season, and having only one win against a ranked team, they will look to pull off quite the upset against the No. 1 ranked Trojans.

USC has been very solid defensively so far this season as they’ve only allowed 7.2 goals per game. Senior goaltender Nic Porter leads the MPSF in saves per game with 11.3. USC hopes to continue that trend this week as it faces two very strong offensive teams.

“Blackout focus in the program is always defense first … it’s a team system we play in our defense and that’s really been anchoring us to the success we’ve had so far,” Porter said. “This week our preparations have been focusing on our defense and making sure that’s really sharp.” 

USC hosts Cal at 12 p.m. Saturday at Uytengsu Aquatic Center and will face UC Irvine Sunday at 1 p.m.