No. 3 USC completes comeback victory against No. 4 Stanford

Redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen holds the ball over his head during USC's matchup against UC Berkeley Oct. 9.
Redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen holds the ball over his head during USC’s matchup against UC Berkeley Oct. 9. (Bonnie Tin Sum Lee | Daily Trojan)

With five minutes and 34 seconds left in the third period, No. 3 USC surrendered a fifth-straight goal to No. 4 Stanford making the score 9-5 when Head Coach Marko Pintaric called a timeout. The Trojans, who were looking for their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference win of the season, had to come from behind to secure it. 

After that timeout, USC came out with a brand new energy completely flipping the momentum of the game. The Trojans would proceed to go on a dominant 10-2 run to close out No. 4 Stanford by a score of 15-11 on the road and get their 14th win of the season. 

“That whole unit was out of sync giving up nine goals to that point and the timeout was necessary, just really to calm them down and address the defense issues we had,” Pintaric said. “Kind of giving them a little guidance to remind them how to beat Stanford … it was a great timeout because they did find their rhythm and went on a great run.”

Before the timeout nothing was going in USC’s favor, until leading scorer redshirt senior driver Jacob Mercep blasted in a shot to get the Trojans in the right direction after Pintaric’s timeout. Mercep finished the day with two goals and four assists, three of such assists being to fellow senior Jake Ehrhardt. 

Those two goals now moves Mercep into a tie with Robert Lynn for fourth-most career goals in USC history.

Mercep wasn’t the only one who helped the Trojans turn the tide, as both senior 2-meter Ehrhardt and junior driver Marcus Longton both had hat-tricks on the day. This is now the eight-straight game Ehrhardt has had at least one goal, and the seventh-straight such game for redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen. It was a collective effort for the Trojans as, once again, nine players had at least one goal in the victory over Stanford. 

Senior goalie Nic Porter was a major factor in the USC victory as he and the defense were able to hold Stanford scoreless in the fourth period. Porter finished the contest with 15 saves  as he stonewalled the Cardinal every opportunity they had in the fourth period. 

Those 15 saves moved Porter into 7th place for most USC career saves, only ten saves off of sixth place.

Pintaric had a few takeaways from the comeback win to help build off of in the next few weeks.

“The team is still learning how to play with each other,” Pintaric said. “And it’s a process so that’s my number one thing because it’s evident that these guys can turn things around and play great.”

The Trojans have now won two-straight against the Cardinal, the other being earlier this season in the MPSF invitational tournament. Now with its first conference win of the season, USC is poised to finish the regular season strong having only two games remaining against the University of California, Santa Barbara and No. 1 UCLA.

Pintaric was very pleased with the result of the game and the resilience the team showed when things were looking bleak.

“I’m very pleased and proud of the guys … the last ten minutes of the game, great, and the guys played with great desire and refused to lose,” Pintaric said.

Next week the Trojans host No. 7 Santa Barbara at Uytengsu Aquatic Center Sunday at 1 p.m.