Top-Ranked Trojans Stake Claim On A Spot In MPSF Title Match|
Nov. 18, 2016
WESTWOOD, CALIF. -- The top-ranked USC men's water polo team swept through its group with two powerful wins to move into position to take the MPSF's 2016 title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 Trojans took down Stanford 9-5 and Penn State Behrend 10-0 today at Spieker Aquatics Center in Westwood. The victorious first day of play places the Trojans (22-1) in Sunday's 1 p.m. title match against tournament host and rival UCLA. The winner will secure the automatic spot in the NCAA tourney and likely the top seed in the bracket.
In a must-win game against No. 4 seeded Stanford, the Trojans came to play. USC built up a 3-0 lead as the Trojan defense kept turning away the Cardinal. Goalie McQuin Baron was a big part of that shutout first half, collecting nine saves in those first 16 minutes of action. The Trojan defense also stubbornly stymied many a Stanford offensive series down the stretch, while Bryce Hoerman, Grant Stein and Matt Maier each punched in a goal to keep USC's grip on the game intact. Stanford would break through with back-to-back goals out of the gates of the second half to crank up the pressure, though. Two 6-on-5 scores by the Cardinal cut the score down to 3-2 just two minutes deep into the third frame.
But USC would respond decisively. Four straight USC goals would follow as the Trojan sped back out of reach. Blake Edwards set up Stein for his second blast of the day, and then Marin Dasic followed up a Thomas Dunstan defensive takeaway with a 6-on-5 finish by the Croatian to make it 5-2 Trojans. A minute later, Dasic served up a pass for Zach D'Sa to add the finishing touch to for a 6-2 USC advantage. One more minute would pass by before Dasic delivered again, scooping a setup pass for Edwards to slam into the back of the net, and USC was up 7-2 just three minutes after facing a one-goal game. Stanford got one last goal to go before the close, making it 7-3 Trojans entering the fourth. There, USC rattled off two more goals. Dasic registered his second goal as he laced in a 6-on-5 score from the top, and then Stein tallied his third with a ripper to the top corner to make it 9-3 USC with 5 minutes left to play. Stanford strung together the last two goals of the game, but USC was well in control as the Trojan secured the 9-5 win to make a huge step toward the MPSF title match.
USC's day's work was not yet done, however. The Trojans would need to get through MPSF newcomer Penn State Behrend in the day's last match in order to finalize its ticket to the conference final. Up against the Lions for the first time, USC had redshirt freshman goalie Simon Wu take over the cage from Baron for this one. With Wu backing up the USC defense, the Trojans were able to pin up a 10-0 win over Penn State Behrend, with Lachlan Edwards leading the scoring for USC with a hat trick. Chase Koplow and Dasic each added two for the Trojan cause to help carry USC along to victory.
The top-ranked Trojans now carry a 14-game win streak into the MPSF Tournament championship game, where USC will square off against No. 2 UCLA at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Nov. 20) at the Bruins' home pool. The title match will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.
2016 MPSF TOURNAMENT (Spieker Aquatics Center | Westwood, Calif.)
Group A - Game 2
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 16, Oliver Lewis (STAN) 12.
Group A - Game 3
SAVES: Simon Wu (USC) 6, Cameron Makin (PSB) 2 [1st half], Kyle Frerichs (PSB) 2 [2nd half].