No. 2 USC Sets Up For Home Opener And More This Week|
Sept. 7, 2016
USC has is home opener on the docket this week, followed by a road trip to the Inland Empire for more nonconference action. The 2-0 Trojans first set up camp in home waters at Uytengsu Aquatics Center as they host No. 6 UC Santa Barbara in a 9 a.m. matchup on Saturday (Sept. 10). From there, USC will head east for a pair of games at the Inland Empire Classic. The Trojans will take on Whittier at 10:20 a.m. before facing host La Verne for a 1:20 p.m. clash on Sunday (Sept. 11) in La Verne, Calif.
USC opened the 2016 season in the same place it left off last season, holding strong at No. 2 in the nation after making 11 straight trips to the NCAA final and having claimed seven national championships during that run. The Trojans remain tabbed as the No. 2 team in the land in this week's rankings.
USC pieced together a pair of powerful performances on opening day at the Triton Invitational last weekend. USC's 2-0 start to 2016 came with a well-balanced effort, as the Trojans pinned up a 14-3 win over No. 8 UC Irvine and a 16-3 victory over No. 17 Cal Baptist in La Jolla. USC had nine different scorers strike the back of the net in each game, displaying the Trojans' depth in this 2016 campaign. USC's season opener saw three Trojans tally their first career goals at USC. The first USC goal of the year came from freshman Marin Dasic, and the first goals of the second period of play were served up in back-to-back fashion from redshirt freshman Daniel Leong. Soon after, true freshman Thomas Dunstan rang up his first goal as a Trojan, and USC was off to the races with an 8-1 lead on the Anteaters that would bump up to 9-1 by halftime. Junior Mihajlo Milicevic led the way with a team-high three goals for the Trojan cause, while junior goalie McQuin Baron went the distance in the cage and hauled in eight saves as USC pressed on to a final 14-3 win over UC Irvine. The Trojans would find an even higher gear for their next contest, drumming up the first nine goals of the game. That included the first career goal from redshirt freshman Sam Slobodien, while a pack of USC returners hit the back of the net as well in steaming to a 9-0 halftime advantage over Cal Baptist. Senior Nick Bell disrupted the Lancer game plan to the tune of five first-half steals to help the Trojan defense shut out its opponent in the first half of action. In the second half of play, USC redshirt freshman goalie Simon Wu checked in for his first game action as a Trojan, continuing the trend of your Trojans making an impact in USC's winning start to 2016. With Wu backing them up, the Trojans stayed on course and served up another seven goals as Bell, Matteo Morelli and Mitch Embrey each worked their ways into hat tricks to help top off USC's 16-3 victory over the Lancers.
The No. 6 Gauchos are 2-0 after beating Pomona-Pitzer 18-3 and Air Force 21-11 last week at the Triton Invitational. UCSB is led in scoring by Josh Jordan with six goals. Starting goalie Liam Lenihan is averaging 5.0 saves and 2.0 goals against per game. USC is 69-12-2 all-time against UCSB and holds a 51-match win streak against the Gauchos. Last season, USC beat UCSB 10-8 at the SoCal Tournament and then edged out the Gauchos 6-5 in Santa Barbara in an MPSF matchup.
The Poets are 3-0 after beating Grossmont 13-6, Concordia 19-11 and Riverside City 11-8 last week at the Whittier Open. Whittier is led in scoring by Massimiliano Mirarchi with 14 goals. Goalie Murat Ersoz is averaging 7.3 saves and 8.3 goals against per game. USC is 6-0 all-time against Whittier. Last season, USC beat the Poets 30-4 at the Inland Empire Classic.
SCOUTING LA VERNE
The Leopards are 1-1 after losing to Concordia 15-10 and beating Fresno Pacific 16-14 in overtime at the Whittier Mini Tournament last week. La Verne is led in scoring by Rey Julian Castillo with 10 goals. Goalie Ian Hernandez averages made 16 saves and allowed 21 goals in six periods of work last weekend. USC is 3-0 all-time against La Verne. Last season, USC beat the Leopards 23-2 at the Inland Empire Classic.
VAVIC NEARS 500
USC head coach Jovan Vavic is closing in fast on his 500th career victory at the helm of the USC men's program. The Trojans' 2-0 start to the 2016 season now has Vavic gripping 496 career wins. If USC stays in winning mode through this early stretch of the season, the Trojans could capture number 500 for Vavic on Sept. 17 at Stanford. Stay tuned!
For this 2016 season, USC welcomes back every one of its eight All-Americans, and only one of them -- Nick Bell -- is a senior. That means firepower, experience and daunting skill is available at every turn for the Trojans. In all, USC returns its top six scorers from 2015, including All-American honorees Blake Edwards, Grant Stein, Lachlan Edwards, Matteo Morelli and Bell, while defensive dangers Mihajlo Milicevic and James Walters and newly inked Olympian McQuin Baron also bring back their All-American talent to Troy for 2016. That crew of returning All-Americans accounted for 64 percent of USC's offensive output. Top scorer Blake Edwards scored 68 goals all on his own, tallying the sixth most single-season goals scored by a Trojan.
For the first time since 1958, USC has a roster studded with two returning Olympians. Junior McQuin Baron and freshman Thomas Dunstan both earned themselves trips to Rio de Janeiro last month as members of the United States Olympic Team. At those 2016 Games, Baron and Dunstan got to rub elbows with two Trojan greats -- USC's all-time top scorer Kostas Genidounias capped up for Greece, while USC's all-time leader in saves Joel Dennerley was between the pipes once again for Australia.
In his first season at Troy, Blake Edwards was USC's top scorer. Now in his second season as a Trojan, he is a member of a ridiculously talented junior class. Fellow All-Americans Grant Stein, Matteo Morelli, James Walters, Mihajlo Milicevic and Lachlan Edwards are all now juniors, as are savvy scorers Bryce Hoerman and Lazar Pasuljevic. In fact, USC's top four scorers in 2015 are all also classmates: the Edwards brothers, Stein and Morelli.
USC's youth movement remains solid. In their first season of work as Trojans, Chase Koplow and Zach D'Sa combined for 32 goals last year, and both were members of USC's 2015 NCAA Tournament roster. That vital early experience should pay dividends for the Trojans, who have all but two members of that tournament roster back on active duty for 2016. USC's seasoned veterans will be bolstered by a group of talented new Trojans. Clearly, 2016 Olympian Thomas Dunstan already brings in some serious credentials for his freshman campaign, but there are several other USC newcomers tabbed for duty in 2016 along with a few Trojans who redshirted last season. True freshmen Marin Dasic and Matt Maier will also factor into the USC gameplan, while redshirt freshmen Sam Slobodien and Daniel Leong join the field along with goalie Simon Wu, who will back up Baron in the cage along with freshman Will Rubschlager. Even more reliable talent in the Trojan pool comes in the form of redshirt junior Mitch Embrey, redshirt sophomores Tim Leong, Brock Hudnut and Murphy Slater, and redshirt freshman Daniel Leong, who round out the USC active roster for 2016.
The Trojan roster boasts a lot of brotherly love this season. Two sets of brothers are in the mix, with four other brothers following in the footsteps of Trojan siblings. The Edwards brothers -(Blake & Lachlan) could be considered the bash brothers of the bunch, having combined for 85 goals to date. The Leong brothers (Tim and Daniel) also combine forces on the 2016 roster this year as a redshirt sophomore and freshman, respectively Four more Trojans are capped up for USC just as their older siblings have done. James Walters (brother Jon), Grant Stein (sister Michelle), Nick Silvers (sister Chelsea and brother Andrew) and Murphy Slater (sister Melanie) have all followed their family trees to Troy.
The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has a new look this season, as six teams departed the conference to start their own new league. Now, the MPSF men's water polo field is a five-team group that includes veterans Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC and welcomes newcomer Penn State Behrend for the 2016 season. PSB will see its first official action against its MPSF-mates at the conference championship tournament in Westwood Nov. 18-20.
2015 RECAP USC rolled up another impressive run to the NCAA final in 2015 -- the Trojans' 11th consecutive trip to the title match -- and finished up the season with a 22-7 overall record. USC posted a 6-3 record in MPSF play to snag the No. 4 seed into the conference tournament, where the Trojans were under pressure to perform in order to continue its NCAA tournament streak. A tense 7-6 overtime win over Stanford in the opening round was the first key. And after a loss to top-seeded UCLA in the semifinals, USC faced a must-win third-place matchup against No. 2 seeded Pacific. The Trojans were all business in that one, topping the Tigers decisively 8-4. That was crucial in earning USC a place in the NCAA tournament, scoring a place in the play-in game, which the Trojans won handily. USC followed that with a solid 9-6 win over Cal in the NCAA semis to earn a championship rematch with UCLA. The host Bruins were able to hold off the Trojans in that one with a 10-7 decision in the title match. USC would go on to place a whopping eight Trojans on the All-America list -- all of whom return for this 2016 campaign. Blake Edwards picked up first team honors in his first season as a Trojan, scoring 68 goals to lead USC on the scoresheet in 2015. In all, the USC offense -- with 21 different scorers -- averaged 13.8 goals per game. while the defense allowed 6.2 goals against per game. By the close of the year, USC had outscored opponents 400-179.
FIGHTING ON FOR JON
On Jan. 8, 2014, the Trojan Family lost a special member in the passing of USC freshman Jon Walters. At 19 years old, Walters was an NCAA Champion, beloved teammate and a Trojan warrior for the USC men's water polo team. His loss has touched the Trojan Family and the water polo world deeply, and the USC water polo program continues to play with Jon in their hearts. As a first-year freshman 2-meter man, Jon Walters was a key contributor on USC's 2013 NCAA championship men's water polo team that won a sixth consecutive NCAA title in December. He scored 17 goals on the year, including two in the NCAA semifinal game and another two in the MPSF championship game, despite missing the middle part of the season with an elbow injury. A native of Newport Beach, he attended Mater Dei High School, where he was an All-American and the 2012 CIF Player of the Year. Jon's younger brother James is now a junior at USC, coming off two seasons in which the younger Walters earn All-American Honorable Mention.