No. 3 USC defeats No. 5 Long Beach State

Redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen swims across the pool.
Redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen transferred from UCLA to USC and played for the Trojans starting in the spring 2021 season. (Bonnie Tin Sum Lee | Daily Trojan)

No. 3 USC, still reeling from its loss against No. 2 Cal, got another confidence booster with a 13-9 win Sunday against No. 5 Long Beach State.

The Trojans handled business with graduate student 2-meter Wyatt Barker, redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen and sophomore driver Carson Kranz all scoring hat tricks in the victory. The Beach had a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but just 24 seconds later USC rattled off four straight goals and never lost the lead again. 

Freshman 2-meter Luka Brnetic got the first goal of the game for the Trojans. USC was able to get the job done on Sunday even without having its top scorer, redshirt senior driver Jacob Mercep, notch a goal in the contest. 

“We were showing improvement,” said Head Coach Marko Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Long Beach is [a] very tough [opponent], we were getting ready for this game, and I’m very happy with the way the team performed.”

The game marked the Trojans’ 13th time scoring double-digit goals this season. The defense also put in a shift as senior goalie Nic Porter had 11 saves in the contest. This marks Porter’s 30th career double-digit save game for the Trojans, and his sixth this season. Porter is third in the MPSF in saves per game.

The Beach have been formidable this year, as they held a 16-4 record with wins against top teams such as No. 6 UCSB and No. 8 UC Davis before the game. USC’s defense swarmed Long Beach State the entire game, creating difficult offensive circumstances for the Beach. Apart from a two-minute stretch in the third and at the very beginning of the game, the Trojans were able to prevent Long Beach State from scoring consecutive times throughout the game.

“We improved in some areas, and some areas need more improvement. We bounced back for example in our six on five power play conversions we were 50% this game … I’m very pleased with that ratio,” Pintaric said. “It’s a work in progress, but we worked hard this weekend.” 

With only three games left in the season, USC hopes to end on a strong note before heading into the MPSF championship and the NCAA tournament. After losing in the NCAA final last year to UCLA, it has been the Trojans’ goal to get back to that same spot and claim victory this time around. USC’s match against Stanford next week will be very important to its overall mindset and confidence for these very critical next few games, as the Trojans haven’t defeated the Cardinal since 2019.

“Long Beach was a very capable opponent, and that’s why we got ready for Long Beach like we are getting ready for Stanford, and for Santa Barbara next week and week after for UCLA. It’s always preparation,” Pintaric said. “You always have to play with the same frame of mind if you want to reach that consistency.”

USC visits Stanford at 1 p.m. Saturday in its second conference match of the season.