Trojans Send Pacific Packing With 8-4 Comeback Win For Third At MPSF Tournament|
Nov. 22, 2015
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The No. 4 seeded USC men's water polo team breathed new life into its bid for an 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament by taking out No. 2 seeded Pacific in a decisive 8-4 Trojan victory today to finish third at the MPSF Tournament. Now 20-6 overall, USC has its eighth consecutive 20-win season in the books. In avenging a regular-season loss to the Tigers, the Trojans have put themselves in a good position for a potential at-large selection for the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
With their backs against a wall today in the MPSF third-place matchup with Pacific, the Trojans showed nerves of steel. After falling behind 2-0, USC made a four-goal rally to power into the lead to stay. An iron-clad performance from McQuin Baron in goal laid the foundation for the USC push to victory, as the sophomore collected 18 saves in the win. Now with 534 career saves, Baron ranks No. 7 all-time at USC in that category. The groundwork for USC's comeback efforts was also laid by Blake Edwards, who hammered in back-to-abck goals to pull the Trojans even at 2-2 in the second period of play.
The teams would stay snarled at 2-2 at halftime, but USC officially took control in the third. With Baron holding court in the cage, USC's offense was able to get in a groove. Mac Carden delivered a booming defensive field block that sent the Trojans the other way midway through the frame, and Mihajlo Milicevic rifled in a solo shot to give USC the lead, up 3-2. Again Baron made the block in the cage, and USC was back on the attack. This time, it was freshman Nick Lavayen who took it upon himself to give his team a spark. Lavayen laced in a ripper off a pass from James Walters, and USC was gripping a 4-2 advantage. Seconds later, Pacific broke its silence with a score from the post. The Tigers' next try, however, was met by Baron with authority. And with 1:53 on the clock, it was sophomore Bryce Hoerman who came through with the next set of heroics for the Trojans. Hoerman went on a solo mission, making the spin and hammering in an impressive goal to make it 5-3 Trojans.
In the fourth, USC just kept clicking. Edwards would hit Grant Stein for a sizzling strike that boosted USC ahead 6-3, and less than a minute later Walters served up another killer pass. This time he found Blake Edwards for a laser that finished off a hat trick for the Aussie and all but finished off the Tigers as the Trojans gripped an 7-3 advantage with 5:13 left to play. On USC's very next possession, though, the Trojans would add a little more insurance as Hoerman hit Nick Bell for a blast from the post to balloon USC's lead to 8-3 with 4:30 to go. Pacific would manage one last goal before the close of the game, sending one crosscage with 1:19 remaining to finish out the game as a decisive 8-4 USC victory.
The Trojans now await the NCAA Committee's decision on at-large berths for the coming 2015 NCAA Tournament. The bracket will be officially announced tomorrow (Nov. 24).
2015 MPSF TOURNAMENT (Uytengsu Aquatics Center)
SAVES: McQuin Baron (USC) 18, Brady Moore (PAC) 11.