No. 3 USC Engages In Action At Inland Empire Classic

    Senior Rex Butler tallied five goals in USC's first weekend of action.
    Sept. 10, 2014

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    The No. 3 USC men's water polo team rolls deeper into its 2014 campaign with its second weekend of action taking the Trojans to Redlands, Calif., for four more matchups. Toting a 4-0 start to the season, USC will next take on four opponents during the Inland Empire Classic from Sept. 13-14. First up in the lineup of unranked foes will be Chapman, which USC will face at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 13). Immediately after, the Trojans will take on Occidental to finish off a doubleheader day. On Sunday (Sept. 14), The Trojans start the day with an 11:40 a.m. clash against Concordia and then square off against No. 18 Air Force at 2:20 p.m.

    September 2, 2012
    Westwood, Calif.
    Top-Ranked Trojans Tally Another Big Win
    The No. 1 USC men's water polo team are officially off to a 3-0 start to 2012 with another dominating win today in the early goings of the Trojans' campaign for a fifth straight national championship. Today's takedown was a 21-4 win over Chapman out at the UCLA Invitational. Twelve different Trojans scored in this one, led by hat tricks from Ivan Kustic and Nikola Vavic.

    September 27, 1980
    Pepperdine, Calif. (Pepperdine Tournament)
    Air Force2
    September 8, 2013
    La Jolla, Calif.
    Concordia (Calif.)4
    November 10, 2012
    McDonald's Swim Stadium
    Vavic Strikes Nine In Win Over Concordia
    USC junior Nikola Vavic went bigger than ever today with a nine-goal outing to lead the Trojans to their 22nd straight win of the year. Vavic's nine goals against Concordia is the most by a Trojan since at least 1999, which is the last year that collegiate water polo scoring included two-point goals. Behind Vavic's triple hat trick today, the top-ranked Trojans topped visiting Concordia with a 19-4 victory, keeping USC solidly undefeated at 22-0 on the year.


    The six-time defending NCAA champion Trojans entered 2014 ranked No. 2 in the nation in the preseason poll. In spite of a dominating 4-0 start, USC now sits at No. 3 in this week's national poll.

    USC four matchups this weekend present the Trojans with a shot at keeping a perfect slate against each team. USC has beaten Chapman in two prior meetings, with a 21-4 win when the teams last met in 2012. So, too, does USC hold a 2-0 mark against Occidental, having posted a 14-0 win when they last met in 2005. The Trojans are 3-0 all-time against Concordia after a 19-4 win in 2012. USC's history with Air Force, meanwhile, dates back to 1982. The Trojans have never lost to Air Force, bringing in a 17-0 record after a 23-2 win when the teams faced off last year.

    No. 2 USC came away unscathed from its season-opening action at last weekend's Triton Invitational. The Trojans -- debuting a large set of newcomers to the roster for 2014 -- opened up with a 19-3 win over No. 11 UC Davis and wrapped Day One with a 24-5 win over La Verne. The following morning, USC took down Redlands 27-7 before engaging in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship with a tangle against No. 5 Pacific. The Trojans would turn a tight first half into a dominating victory with a six-goal surge that helped cap off a 10-3 win over the Tigers. Leading the scoring charge for the Trojans was senior Kostas Genidounias, who was USC's top scorer in each game in finishing with 16 goals on the weekend. That effort lifted Genidounias to take over as USC's No. 3 leading scorer. When the action came to a close, 10 players had rung up their first career goals as Trojans during the weekend. True freshmen Matteo Morelli and Grant Stein finished up with seven goals apiece to trail Genidounias' 16-goal weekend, with redshirt junior Mac Carden and freshmen Lachlan Edwards and James Walters tallying six goals each. In the cage, USC's freshmen goalies McQuin Baron and Ben Goncharenko traded games in goal, with both proving their worth on the defensive end. Baron went big in the win over Pacific, too, notching 14 saves against the Tigers to set an early career high for himself.

    Just four games into 2014, the Trojans are already putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 16 goals, freshmen Matteo Morelli and Grant Stein with seven apiece, and Mac Carden, Lachlan Edwards and James Walters with six each, USC has outscored opponents 80-18 -- more than quadruple its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 4.5 goals per game holding opponents scoreless in the third quarter in three of its four games.

    USC's NCAA championship streak began while this incoming freshman class was still in middle school. So although the 2014 Trojan newcomers haven't experienced winning a national championship firsthand -- yet -- they certainly are familiar with the culture of winning that has been built at Troy. Every other member of the USC roster has at least one national championship ring in his trophy case. The senior class of four Trojans, meanwhile, have played in a combined eight NCAA Tournaments in the past three seasons. Three of those seniors -- Rex Butler, Kostas Genidounias and Marc Vonderweidt -- have experience from USC's 2012 and 2013 title matches. That trio, along with Nick Bell, Mac Carden and Max Hurst-Mendoza all combined forces for USC in last season's championship victory. To be sure, USC's championship savvy is still very much in effect.

    Everybody is calling it a "rebuilding year." Everybody, that is, except USC head coach Jovan Vavic. His group of 22 newcomers for 2014 already looks to be built to last. Vavic already has tabbed eight or nine of those freshmen for immediate action. Team USA goalie McQuin Baron has the starting nod in the cage, but he's not the only newcomer with experience in international waters. Four players from four different countries have arrived from overseas to join the Trojans this year. Australian National Teamer Lachlan Edwards is poised to post up for the Trojans, following in the footsteps of another Aussie two-meter man -- All-American Jeremy Davie, who played four years and won four titles as a Trojan. Mihajlo Milicevic comes to Troy from Serbia; Lazar Pasuljevic hails from Montenegro; and Matteo Morelli joins the Trojans from Italy. Vavic is eager to involve each of them in his 2014 game plan. Adding to the depth charge in the new class are a set of solid stars from more local waters. In addition to goalies Baron and Ben Goncharenko, California has produced some mighty field players to bolster the Trojan cause. Bryce Hoerman, Grant Stein and James Walters headline that crew, which offers up some impressive flexibility and skill in which Vavic already has early confidence.

    USC has played in the NCAA championship game 10 times in the past 11 years. Eight national titles have come during that span. But it isn't just a place in another final that USC is aiming for. No, for 2014 the Trojans once again have just one mission. USC has won six consecutive titles, and making it seven in a row would also bring the men's program its 10th national championship.

    Seniors Kostas Genidounias and Rex Butler represent a potent one-two punch for the Trojans. The righty-lefty duo give USC dangerous scoring options from both sides of the pool, and they've been effective in their Trojan careers to date. Genidounias whipped in 80 goals (third most in program history) for USC last season as a junior, giving him a career count of 179 to rank him No. 4 all-time entering 2014. Butler scored 40 goals last year, giving him 69 overall as he pursues a spot in the 100-goal club by the close of his Trojan career. That pair stands out as USC's top returning scorers, but Nick Bell, Mac Carden and Marc Vonderweidt have also proven to pack some scoring punch of their own. All three scored 18 goals apiece last season.

    The only position dominated wholly by freshmen is in the cage-- previously occupied by Olympians Joel Dennerley and James Clark for the past six seasons. And yet Vavic is as confident in his goalies as anywhere else. McQuin Baron looms large as the starter, bringing in his 6-foot-9-inch frame fresh from a summer of experience with the U.S National Team. The Trojans could well tag-team the cage, too, as the goalie corps is solid down the line. Ben Goncharenko and Steven Michaud are both standout goalies in their own right and stand to see time in the cage as well.

    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 will be playing with Jon in their hearts this season and beyond. 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 a freshman on this 2014 USC team.

    2013 RECAP
    USC became the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six consecutive national championships when the Trojans finished off their 2013 campaign with five straight wins, claiming the MPSF Championship before making a victorious run to win the 2013 NCAA Championship. An overtime win over Pacific in the title match notched a 28-4 overall record for the Trojans while grabbing the program's ninth national crown. Senior Nikola Vavic finished his career as USC's all-time leading scorer, was named National Player of the Year and was again a finalist for the Cutino Award. Kostas Genidounias, too, was named a Cutino Award finalist, and was one of six All-Americans from the 2013 season along with Vavic, James Clark, Jeremy Davie, Mace Rapsey and Connor Virjee. In all, the Trojan offense -- charged by 21 different scorers -- averaged 15.3 goals per game, while the defense allowed 6.7 goals against per game. USC outscored opponents 490-213 in 2013, marking the most goals scored in a year by the Trojans since at least 1983. •