No. 3 Men’s water polo hosts No. 7 UC Santa Barbara

Senior Nic Porter might be the best goalie in the nation, and he just got his third MPSF Player of the Week award to prove it. With its defensive anchor at the top of his game, No. 3 USC looks to claim victory in its penultimate regular season game against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, Oct. 31.

USC currently stands 14-1 after a four-goal comeback against No. 4 Stanford last week. The Trojans held the Cardinal scoreless in the fourth quarter to emerge victorious, 15-11.

“We actually stepped up … the team actually got their thoughts together, stepped up, and won a game,” said Head Coach Marko Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “It’s a very, very important thing that I’m taking from this game.”

The team defense and Porter have both been terrific in the last two games. The Trojans held the Cardinal two goals under their 13.6 season average and No. 5 Long Beach State 4 goals under theirs, all while Porter has saved 56.5% of shot attempts.

“It’s amazing, Nic is [the] bedrock of our defense,” redshirt senior driver Jacob Mercep said. “He always gives us so much security and fuels the emotion behind the defense … This is just all the hard work he put in.”

While Porter is well aware of his stardom, he is quick to downplay his individual achievements.

“This is such a cliché, but it really is the team and the system that we play,” Porter said. “I just try to play my role in the team to the best of my ability … What we stress in our program is it’s team first.”

On the offensive end, redshirt junior driver Ashworth Molthen and senior 2-meter Jake Ehrhardt have been the Trojans’ driving force, scoring 8 and 7 goals, respectively, in the last three games. Against UC Santa Barbara, and looking into the future, with a matchup with No. 1 UCLA set for next week, USC will need Porter, Molthen and Ehrhardt in peak form, as well as the composure Pintaric raved about.

“It’s gonna be everything,” Pintaric said. “The team with the coolest head will prevail. [I’m trying to put] the team in challenging situations to react to … that’s what we’re actually going to address today in practice, as well.”

Having fresh legs will also help USC. Pintaric has been rotating the team all season, giving substantial playing time to reserves. This freshness helped fuel the comeback victory over Stanford and that it will be important for USC moving forward.

The Trojans host UC Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. at the Uytengsu Aquatic Center Sunday.