Men’s water polo rematches top teams

The No. 3 Trojans will play the No. 5 Cardinal and No. 2 Cal over the weekend.

Senior driver Carson Kranz has scored a goal in the Trojans’ past five consecutive games and he is one of five USC players to post a double-digit goal total. (Ethan Thai / Daily Trojan)

After routing Pacific 16-6 at Uytengsu Aquatics Center Sunday, the No. 3 Trojans will play their second and third Mountain Pacific Sports Federation games against No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 UC Berkeley this weekend.

USC (10-2, 0-1 MPSF) has outscored opponents 166-98 this season with an average of 13.8 goals per game.

“Everybody’s stepping in when it’s needed,” said Head Coach Marko Pintaric in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Of course, we would always love to have a perfect record. So, for us in our corner, it’s always room for improvement.”

Senior 2-meter Max Miller leads the team with 25 goals so far after finding the net 28 times all of last season. Graduate driver Massimo Di Martire is second on the team with 23 goals to go, along with 15 assists and a team-leading 19 steals. Di Martire scored three times in the 13-12 overtime victory against Stanford (9-4, 0-1).

“I’m offensively successful thanks to my team,” Di Martire said. “They put me in the best condition to realize and score. And we try [to] basically practice every day [in] every kind of situation.”

Defensively, redshirt sophomore goalie Eric Hubner and redshirt freshman goalie Bernardo Herzer have split time in the goal. Herzer has a team-leading 67 saves while Hubner has 42.

The Trojans will first face Stanford Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center. Cardinal senior driver Jackson Painter has a team-leading 36 goals and 10 multi-goal games. Senior driver Riley Pittman is close behind with 34 goals.  Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Griffen Price has 96 saves on the season.

“We can’t just let [Stanford] beat us in the counterattack,” Hubner said. “We just got to make sure that we lock down our defense.”

Sunday, the Trojans will rematch against Cal (12-1, 1-0) at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Golden Bears defeated the Trojans 12-5 in September, one of just two Trojan losses. Last year, Cal defeated USC 13-12 in the NCAA Championship Game.

“We need to adopt a completely different strategy and be more aggressive than last time,” Di Martire said in an interview with the Daily Trojan.

Junior attacker Max Casabella is fourth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with 28 goals for the Golden Bears, while junior attacker Roberto Valera is tied for fifth in the conference with 25 goals. In the cage, senior goalie Adrian Weinberg allows 8.73 goals per game, the third-best in the MPSF.

USC leads the all-time series against Stanford 75-64 and won its last five games. Against Cal, the Trojans are 69-69-2 and have lost the last five games against the Golden Bears.

The Trojans will face Stanford Saturday at noon at Avery Aquatic Center before facing Cal Sunday at 1 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

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