Fresh Faces Have Trojans Focused On Another Championship Run|
Nov. 11, 2014
By Aubrey Kragen, USC Sports Information
Senior driver Kostas Genidounias is inching closer and closer to becoming the all-time leading scorer of USC's men's water polo program. The Athens, Greece, native has scored 67 times this year -- another top-10 single-season scoring tally already for the senior. But although Genidounias is the team's clear leader, and the NCAA-savvy of USC's senior class is the backbone of the team, the 2014 Trojans have a depth charge of talented freshmen that also is driving the Trojan team forward this season.
USC graduated five All-Americans from its 2013 National Championship team, but this year's new talent is making an immediate impact in the pool. In particular, the Trojans boast nine freshmen who are coming up big for the USC cause this season, helping propel the six-time defending national champions back within reach of another title. Almost half of USC's 2014 scoring has come from freshman hands, and all of the Trojan goalkeeping duties are being handled by freshmen.
Matteo Morelli, a Naples, Italy, transplant, has scored 36 goals while managing 11 multiple-goal games this season, including a five-goal outing against Chapman back in September.
Though Morelli is the only Italy native on the team, he's certainly not the only international newcomer. Two-meter man Lachlan Edwards, whose 30 goals are fifth-most on the team, hails from Melbourne, Australia. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder played on the Australian National Team before deciding to join the six-time defending NCAA champion Trojans. He follows in the footsteps of four other recent Australians to claim All-American honors and NCAA Championships while at Troy -- Joel Dennerley, Jeremy Davie, Mace Rapsey and James Clark.
Utility man Mihajlo Milicevic came to USC all the way from one of the world's hotbeds for water polo talent: Belgrade, Serbia. Milicevic prepped with the Serbian Junior National Team, and won a gold medal at the 2011 Junior World Championships, a silver medal at the 2012 European Junior Championship and a bronze medal at the 2013 World University Games. He's continued that winning attitude at USC, posting 21 goals in his first season.
Driver Lazar Pasuljevic started his first season at Troy with a minor injury to heal up, but the freshman from Herceg Novi, Montenegro has still managed six goals and plenty of key pool time since getting back into action.
Though USC boasts a number of talented international players, the team also brought in a fresh crop of talent from its own backyard in California.
Utility man James Walters came to USC from local powerhouse Mater Dei, the high school in Santa Ana that also produced former Trojan quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart. Walters has found the back of the net 28 times this season. His powerful contributions to USC's season run even deeper than his scoring prowess. He and his Trojan teammates are playing in the memory of James' brother Jon, who won a NCAA Championship at USC last year and who tragically passed away at the beginning of 2014.
Driver Grant Stein also has strong family ties at USC. The Palm Springs native followed his sister, grandfather, two uncles and brother-in-law as a Trojan. He's posted 31 goals so far this season, the fourth most on the team to date.
Bryce Hoerman, a utility man from San Diego, has also been an offensive force for the Trojans, netting 20 goals in his first season including a hat trick last weekend at UC Irvine.
Overall, USC's true freshmen have accounted for 172 of the Trojans' 372 goals this season (46.2 percent) just over half of USC's goals scored in last weekend's victories.
In the cage, USC's two freshman goalies have filled former Trojan James Clark's shoes admirably.
Baron is yet another Mater Dei product, and is a member of the U.S. National Team. The North Tustin native has racked up 221 saves in 21 games this season, averaging 11.33 saves per game and recently grabbing honors as the MPSF Player of the Week.
Goncharenko, who came to USC from La Serna High in Whittier has seen action in 10 games and accumulated 26 saves, averaging 5.2 saves per game. He also boasts a complete-game shutout earlier this season, having held Occidental scoreless in a 24-0 USC win at the Inland Empire Classic.
Though many would have called this a rebuilding year for USC, the Trojans are currently ranked No. 3 in the nation and sport a 20-4 record (5-2 MPSF) heading into their regular-season finale against California this Saturday (Nov. 15) at 10:30 a.m. A win this weekend sets up the Trojans well for a run at defending their 2013 MPSF Tournament title as well as a push for a seventh consecutive NCAA Championship.