USC Stymies Stanford In OT Again to Reach MPSF Semifinals|
Nov. 20, 2015
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The No. 4 seeded USC men's water polo team needed overtime again in order to finalize a vital quarterfinal win over No. 5 seed Stanford in today's MPSF Tournament matchup. Four goals from Grant Stein very nearly did the trick for the Trojans, as the sophomore came up huge with a goal in the first three frames and then the winner in overtime to punch up a 7-6 victory over the Cardinal. The win pushes USC into the MPSF semifinals tomorrow (Nov. 21) at 2:30 p.m. against top-seeded rival UCLA at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
Today's quarterfinal bout against Stanford was reminiscent of the teams' MPSF regular-season matchup in the same pool last month. A tight battle between the Trojans and the Cardinal sound up extending into OT once again, and once again USC was able to get the job done in extra time as the Trojan defense held its ground and the offense came through in the clutch.
This time, it was sophomore Grant Stein who drummed up a resounding goal in the first overtime frame. In the second, the USC defense smothered Stanford, and goalie McQuin Baron provided two huge saves in the last 30 minutes of play to secure victory and tally a career-high 19 saves for the sizable sophomore.
As the game got underway, it was Stanford that broke through first, with a fortunate finish on an early 6-on-5 opportunity to go up 1-0. USC would fire back with back-to-back goals -- first from freshman Chase Koplow on a counterattack blast, and then with a rifle shot from Stein on a setup from Bryce Hoerman to take the Trojans into the lead. Up 2-1 at the end of the first, USC would add to the count care of Stein once again. This time Blake Edwards found the hot-handed sophomore for a searing blow on a USC power play, and the Trojans gripped a 3-1 advantage midway through the second. Stanford answered right back, however, cutting it back to a one-goal game before Koplow struck again -- this time on a 6-on-5 rocket off an assist from Mihajlo Milicevic. Down 4-2, the Cardinal were undeterred. Again Stanford tugged to within one. At the close of halftime, USC looked to have that advantage still intact, but after some confusion on a USC reentry on a Stanford 6-on-5, the penalty was assessed and enforced, giving Stanford a 5-meter penalty shot to equalize the game with 7 seconds left in the half. That 4-4 lockup would hold, bringing up another intense stretch of water polo.
A see-saw battle ensure in the next 16 minutes of play. Matteo Morelli found Stein for his third goal of the day, making it 5-4 Trojans with 4:30 on the clock in the third. Both goalies traded impressive close-range saves next, but USC made the most of a power play opportunity soon after. Blake Edwards dished a pass to Nick Bell, who buried it to nudge USC back to a two-goal lead, up 6-4 with 2:18 to go in the third. Less than a minute later, Stanford got on the board in the frame with an even score to make it 6-5, and that would hold through the close of the third. In the fourth, Stanford delivered on an early 6-on-5 chance to snarl the game at 6-6. Both teams defenses were up to the test in the final stretch of regulation, turning the other away at every opportunity to force overtime action. That's where Stein came through on the offensive end for the Trojans while the USC defense stole the show for the remainder of OT, leaving the Trojans with the 7-6 win and a ticket to an all-important semifinal.
USC faces UCLA at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow (Nov. 21) to the MPSF Semifinals at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. For more information and to access scores, stats and live stream links, go to MPSF TOURNAMENT CENTRAL
2015 MPSF TOURNAMENT (Nov. 20-22 Uytengsu Aquatics Center)
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 19, Drew Holland (STAN) 10.