Top-Ranked Trojans Tangle With No. 3 Stanford In Palo Alto

    Marc Vonderweidt and the Trojans revisit the site of their 2013 NCAA Championship victory this weekend.
    Oct. 15, 2014

    USC Water Polo ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    Back on top as the No. 1 team in the nation, the USC men's water polo team turns back to MPSF play this week. The six-time defending NCAA champs successfully snagged a third straight SoCal Tournament championship last weekend. Now, the Trojans (16-2, 2-0 MPSF) will square off against No. 3 Stanford (15-2, 1-0) for the first time this year. USC will make the journey to Palo Alto this weekend to take on the Cardinal in a 10:30 a.m. MPSF matchup on Saturday (Oct. 18) at Avery Aquatic Center -- the site of USC's 2013 NCAA Championship victory. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks with Christ Dorst and Jason Knapp on the call.

    Stanford (Championship)8
    December 1, 2013
    Stockton, Calif.
    No. 4 USC Claims MPSF Championship
    The No. 4 USC men's water polo team came through in the clutch, topping off a powerful run at the 2013 MPSF Championships with a 10-8 victory over No. 2 Stanford in the title match. The big win secures USC with an automatic bid into the coming NCAA Championships, where the Trojans will go in pursuit of a sixth straight national championship. As the No. 4 team in the nation, winning the MPSF crown was quite possibly the only route for the Trojans to score a spot at NCAAs. This weekend, USC was all business, dropping top-seeded Pacific in the semifinals before taking out the Cardinal today in the MPSF final. USC is now 26-4 overall and has pocketed its ninth all-time MPSF Tournament title.

    The six-time defending NCAA champion Trojans entered 2014 ranked No. 2 in the nation in the preseason poll. USC moved to No. 3 for the next two weeks, and was at No. 4 for three weeks. Now, the Trojans have worked back to the No. 1 slot -- right where they left off at the close of 2013.

    The No. 3 Cardinal are 15-2 overall and 1-0 in MPSF play a third-place finish at last weekend's SoCal Tournament. Stanford beat LMU 21-7 and Pacific 12-6 on the first day and fell 11-7 to Cal in the semifinals. In the third-place game, the Cardinal beat host UCLA 7-6. Bret Bonanni leads Stanford in scoring with 3.18 goals per game. Goalie Drew Holland is averaging 8.77 saves and 5.92 goals against per game. USC is 58-57 all-time against Stanford after a split last season. The Cardinal beat the Trojans 17-16 in overtime last year during MPSF play, and USC topped Stanford 10-8 in last year's MPSF Tournament championship game.

    USC rustled up some big wins last weekend at the 2014 SoCal Tournament in Westwood to claim the Trojans' third consecutive SoCal crown and 11th title in the past 12 years. After two relatively mediocre performances on the first day -- a 12-5 win over No. 15 Air Force and an 11-9 victory over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara -- the Trojans got down to business on Day Two. In the morning semifinals against rival and tournament host UCLA, USC got a jump on the Bruins in the first frame and stayed the course to a huge and decisive upset win. The Trojans avenged last month's loss to UCLA with a dominant 10-6 victory in the semis to step into the title match against No. 3 California. The Bears, too, had beaten the Trojans last month at the NorCal Tournament, and this one was another tight battle. As overtime looked imminent, Mac Carden struck in the final minute to edge USC to a 10-9 lead. The USC defense would come up strong and seal it, registering the victory and another SoCal Tournament championship for the Trojan cause.

    Sophomore Nick Bell had a career weekend in helping USC win the SoCal Tournament championship, totaling 10 goals over the four Trojan victories over the weekend. For his standout performance, Bell earned his first career selection as the MPSF Player of the Week. He's also the first Trojan to win the award this year. In just his second game back from injury, Bell delivered his first career hat trick in USC's opening win over Air Force. He'd tally another goal in USC's next win over UC Santa Barbara. The following day, Bell went even bigger. The sophomore punched in four goals in USC's semifinal upset of host UCLA to mark a new career high for himself and set up his Trojans for the title match. There, Bell added two more goals to help USC edge out Cal 10-9 and win the Trojans' third straight SoCal Tournament crown.

    Before anyone gets too anxious about the back-to-back losses sustained by the Trojans at the NorCal Tournament, rest assured that USC has fought back from similar stumbles in recent seasons, all the while continuing to build on its historic NCAA championship win streak. Back in 2011, USC lost two in a row as it stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the SoCal Tournament. The Trojans would regroup, however, avenging both those losses and powering on to win a fourth consecutive national championship. Last week's loss to Cal snapped a six-game win streak against the Golden Bears, who last beat the Trojans in 2010 during MPSF play -- a 12-9 decision in Cal's favor. That same season, though, saw USC avenge that loss in the finest of forms. The Trojans would beat the Bears in overtime at Cal's own pool to claim the 2010 NCAA Championship -- USC's third straight title.

    Now 18 games into 2014, the Trojans have been putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 54 goals, Matteo Morelli with 30 and Grant Stein with 29, there are a grand total of 12 Trojans already with at least 10 goals apiece. Six of them are freshmen and four are seniors, exhibiting some dangerous balance for USC. To date, USC has outscored opponents 281-110 -- almost triple its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.11 goals per game, having held opponents scoreless in the third quarter in six games.

    Three-time All-American senior Kostas Genidounias has been on the rise in the USC scoring ranks throughout his time at Troy. Named the 2014 KAP7 NorCal Classic MVP last month, he's the Trojans' top scorer this season with 54 goals to date, giving him 233 in his career to take sole possession of No. 2 all-time in career scoring. Nikola Vavic stands at No. 1 with 254 career goals. That puts Genidounias 21 goals from taking over the top spot. Stay tuned!

    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 was calling it a "rebuilding year." Everybody, that is, except USC head coach Jovan Vavic. His group of 22 newcomers for 2014 looks to be built to last. Nine of those freshmen have already logged some serious minutes in the early goings of the 2014 season. 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 posting 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. 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. In all, seven USC freshmen have combined for 139 total goals to date, while the entirety of the goalkeeping duties has been handled by freshmen Baron and Goncharenko.

    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. This year, Bell was sidelined for the first 11 games but has jumped right back in full force. Bell, Carden and USC's senior crew of Butler, Genidounias, Max Hurst-Mendoza and Vonderweidt have combined for 134 goals to date.

    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 coach 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. Fellow freshman Ben Goncharenko also has proven his worth handily. USC has been in capable hands with Goncharenko as a backup and as a starter. He boasts a complete shutout of Occidental, and averages 5.3saves and 4.9 goals-against per game in his eight appearances. Baron, meanwhile, has capped up in 15 games, hauling in 10.6 saves per game and allowing 6.4 goals-against per game.

    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. •