No. 2 USC Sets Up For Saturday Showdown With Stanford

    USC's seniors splash down in their home pool for the last time this weekend.

    Nov. 13, 2013

    USC Water Polo ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    The No. 2 USC men's water polo team settles into home waters this weekend for two important MPSF matchups at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Top billing goes to Saturday's action, in which the Trojans (22-2, 4-1 MPSF) host No. 4 Stanford (17-4, 5-1) at 2 p.m. It's Senior Day for the Trojan squad, which has had this game circled on its calendar all year. The very next day, USC hosts another MPSF collision in a 12 p.m. tilt against No. 8 Long Beach State (18-10, 1-5) on Sunday (Nov. 17).

    Stanford (Semifinals)7(OT)
    September 22, 2013
    Berkeley, Calif.
    Long Beach State7
    October 12, 2013
    Irvine, Calif.
    No. 2 Trojans Surge Into SoCal Tournament Semis
    The No. 2 USC men's water polo team surged into the semifinals of the 2013 SoCal Tournament with two strong wins today on the first day of competition. With five goals today, Trojan senior Nikola Vavic moved into a tie as USC's all-time leading scorer, now even with Juraj Zatovic with 220 career goals. That puts Vavic within striking distance of taking over at No. 1 tomorrow when the Trojans move into the semifinals of the tourney against either Pacific or UC Santa Barbara at 12:15 p.m. in Irvine, Calif.

    The five-time defending NCAA champion Trojans had been ranked No. 1 from Nov. 9, 2011, through to Sept. 25, 2013, until a Sept. 22 loss to UCLA snapped a 41-game winning streak held by the Trojans. On Oct. 13, USC avenged that loss to the Bruins and the Trojans jumped back to the top of the national rankings. USC's Nov. 9 loss to Pacific, however, dropped the Trojans down to No. 2, snapping a four-week stint on top. USC stands alone at No. 2 this week. Stanford ranks No. 4, and Long Beach State weighs in at No. 8.

    The 2013-14 academic year marks 125 Years of Athletics at USC. To celebrate this milestone in USC history, each home football game will be a Reunion Weekend to recognize the accomplishments of the great teams, athletes and coaches of the past. USC water polo's Reunion Weekend is scheduled for this Saturday (Nov. 16), when USC men's water polo hosts Stanford at Uytengsu Center. All reunited Trojans are also invited to an Athletes Pre-Game Picnic before being honored at the USC football game vs. Stanford that same day at 5 p.m. at the Coliseum. For more information for interested alums, visit

    The No. 4 Cardinal are 17-4 overall and 5-1 in MPSF play after three wins last week. Stanford beat UC Irvine 18-6, Chapman 24-7 and Long Beach State 11-8 to hold a seven-game win streak. Bret Bonanni leads Stanford and the MPSF in scoring with 3.38 goals per game. Goalie Drew Holland is averaging 8.2 saves and 7.1 goals against per game. USC is 57-56 all-time against Stanford after beating the Cardinal 8-7 in overtime in the semifinals of the NorCal Tournament earlier this year. Last season, USC beat Stanford in OT 10-9 at the NorCal Tournament, 9-6 during MPSF play, and 11-10 in the semifinals of the 2012 MPSF Tournament. In all, USC has won six in a row against Stanford.

    The No. 8 49ers are 18-10 overall and 1-5 in MPSF play after losing to UCLA 9-5 and to Stanford 11-8 last week. Zacchary Kappos leads Long Beach State in scoring with 1.96 goals per game. Goalie Pavo Ljepopio is averaging 10.6 saves and 8.1 goals against per game. USC is 62-15 all-time against Long Beach State after a 14-7 win earlier this season at the SoCal Tournament. Last season , USC beat the 49ers 13-7 in their MPSF matchup. In all, USC has won 23 in a row against Long Beach State.

    USC had a winning weekend last week, picking up a solid 11-9 comeback victory on the road against Cal before returning home to stall out Pepperdine with a 13-3 win. Against the Golden Bears, USC sputtered out of the gates but regrouped with a focused comeback that saw the Trojans pass up their hosts and steal away an 11-9 victory. Kickstarting the Trojan offense was junior Kostas Genidounias whose five goals were the linchpin in the USC comeback effort. USC trailed by three during the first period of play and didn't find its way into the lead until late in the second frame. The Bears would force the issue, taking a lead to open the second half, but the teams were tied entering the final period of regulation. That's where the Trojans locked in. The USC defense tightened the reins, and the offense spread the ball round for scores from Mace Rapsey, Genidounias and Rex Butler to counter a single power play goal by Cal, and USC emerged victorious 11-9 from a gut check in Berkeley. Against the Waves, the Trojans started out a bit slow, with only two goals apiece in the first two quarters, before turning it on with five in the third and another four in the fourth. It was a rousing four-goal performance from Rex Butler that helped charge up USC. Mace Rapsey also tallied a hat trick for the Trojans, marking the sixth time this season he has scored at least three goals in a game. Goalie James Clark and the Trojan defense held the Pepperdine offense to just three goals, which ties its lowest output of the season. The Trojans held the Waves scoreless in the first quarter and just allowed a goal apiece in the final three frames. Clark tallied nine saves in the match, including three in the shutout first quarter.

    The Trojans successfully -- and dramatically -- defended their SoCal Tournament title with a run to the 2013 championship in Irvine. USC opened the tourney with a 13-4 win over St. Francis Brooklyn and a 14-7 win over Long Beach State to move into the next day's semifinals. There, USC shrugged off an upset-minded Pacific squad with a 10-6 victory to set up a rematch with rival No. 1 UCLA in the title match. The Tigers struck first in the semi tilt, and the teams traded goals for a stretch to a 3-3 lockup before the Trojans bucked that trend with a run of three that saw Ivan Kustic, Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic score in succession to take USC to a 5-3 advantage. That goal from Vavic would lock the senior in as USC's all-time scoring leader, breaking him out of a tie-up with Juraj Zatovic to give Vavic sole possession of Numero Uno with his 221st career goal. With that milestone in the books, the Trojans settled out and stayed largely in control down the stretch. Blasts from Kostas Genidounias and Mace Rapsey bumped USC to a 7-4 halftime lead, and the Trojans would pitch a defensive shutout in the third to further flex their authority to a 9-4 lead advantage entering the fourth frame. There, the Tigers would manage a pair of goals, but not before Genidounias rang up his fourth of the game to net USC its 10th goal of the match, and the game would wrap up with USC in control of a 10-6 victory. That put USC in another tournament title match against crosstown rival UCLA. The Bruins thought they were going to get away unscathed, but the Trojans were not going to let that happen today. Aside from Vavic's opening goal, the Trojans didn't ever lead during regulation play. USC trailed UCLA by two at the end of the first, second and third periods, and were down 10-7 with 4:08 to go when the Trojans kicked back into high gear. Connor Virjee sparked a three-goal USC run with his power play strike with 3:04 to go in regulation. Vavic delivered next with another 6-on-5 score to cut it to a one-goal game, and Rapsey plugged in the equalizer with 1:30 on the clock. UCLA took back the lead 30 seconds later, but Genidounias punched in the buzzer-beater much to the Bruins' dismay to force overtime. The first overtime frame would pass scorelessly, but Genidounias generated the go-ahead goal for the Trojans at the 1:51 mark of the second, notching his fourth of the game. UCLA got up on a 6-on-5 advantage late in the game, but USC goalie James Clark was up to the challenge and posted a huge block to put the finishing touch on USC's comeback surge with a 12-11 OT win to tally another SoCal Tournament title for the Trojans.

    Twenty-four games into 2013, the Trojans are putting up some big numbers. Led by Kostas Genidounias with 65 goals, Nikola Vavic with 61 goals, Connor Virjee with 39 and Mace Rapsey with 35, USC has outscored opponents 393-134 -- nearly tripling its foes' scoring count to date. Defensively, USC is allowing just 5.58 goals per game and has held opponents scoreless in 23 periods of regulation play so far, including 12 games where the Trojans shut out opponents in the first period. USC currently ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in offense (16.38 gpg) and No. 2 in defense (5.58 gapg).

    Nikola Vavic entered 2013 in the books ranked No. 4 all-time in USC scoring history. During USC's run to the SoCal Tournament championship, Vavic took over the No. 1 spot, previously occupied by Juraj Zatovic since 2005. Vavic is creating some extra space at the top now, holding 234 career goals and counting. Also having officially made their marks in the USC charts are senior Jeremy Davie and junior Kostas Genidounias, who broke through the 100-goal threshold on the first weekend of action. Genidounias is now up to No. 6 all-time with 164 goals -- having broken into the top-10 on Oct. 19 -- and Davie ranks No. 21 with 120 to date. Senior Mace Rapsey joined those teammates in the century club on Oct. 12, as the junior now has 111 career goals to rank No. 26 all-time, having edged out current USC head assistant coach Marko Pintaric, who scored 103 during his Trojan career.

    USC senior Connor Virjee snagged his first MPSF Player of the Week award on Oct. 28 after hitting a career-high five goals in a key MPSF road win for the Trojans over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara. Virjee had a hat trick in the books in the first period of play and finished up the 16-10 USC victory with a five-goal outing. Virjee entered his senior year with 45 career goals, but the senior has now provided 39 goals already in this one season, good for third most on the Trojan roster in 2013. Top-ranked USC improved to 20-1 overall and 2-0 in MPSF play with Sunday's win over the No. 6 Gauchos. It was the first career MPSF pick for Virjee, who joins teammate Kostas Genidounias as USC's weekly award honorees this season.

    Kostas Genidounias became the first Trojan this year to be named MPSF Player of the Week after going big for the Trojans in their run to the 2013 SoCal Tournament title. Genidounias was USC's top scorer and the deliverer of the overtime game-winner in the championship game victory over the Bruins. He scored four goals in the title match against No. 1 UCLA, including the buzzer-beater to force overtime and then scoring the lone goal in the second OT to earn the Trojans the comeback win to take home the title. Genidounias also provided four goals in USC's semifinal victory over No. 3 Pacific. On day one, Genidounias scored three vs. St. Francis Brooklyn and two against Long Beach State. He'd finish the tourney with 13 total goals as the Trojans won their second straight SoCal crown and improved their overall record to 17-1 in avenging their only loss of the year with this OT win over the Bruins. The 13-goal weekend also bumped Genidounias up to within one goal of breaking into USC's all-time top-10 scoring list. He's now No. 8 with 157 career goals. Genidounias was last named MPSF Player of the Week on Sept. 24, 2012.

    USC has played in the NCAA championship game nine times in the past decade. Seven national titles have come during that span. But it isn't just a place in the final that USC is aiming for. No, for 2013 the Trojans have only one mission. USC has won five consecutive titles, and the Trojans can make more history in extending that streak to six this season. No collegiate water polo team has won more than five crowns in a row. USC matched Cal's then-record three-in-a-row by beating the Bears in their home pool in 2010. In 2011, the Trojans etched their place in history with a fourth straight in beating UCLA. And in 2012 USC defended its own pool and beat the Bruins in the final again to stretch that streak to five. Now, the Trojans are looking to pick up a sixth. Stay tuned!

    USC's NCAA championship streak began before this incoming freshman class started high school. So although the 2013 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 NCAA championship ring in his trophy case. The senior class of six Trojans, meanwhile, have accumulated 16 rings among them. Five of those seniors -- Jeremy Davie, Zach Lucas, Mace Rapsey, Nikola Vavic and Connor Virjee -- along with redshirt juniors Rex Butler and Max Hurst-Mendoza were true freshmen in 2010 when USC grabbed its third straight title. Senior goalie James Clark, meanwhile, has experienced only two losses as a Trojan. He began his USC career in the cage last season, when the Trojans rolled to a perfect 29-0 record.

    Senior Nikola Vavic and junior Kostas Genidounias combined for a whopping 151 goals last season. Vavic set the USC record for single-season scoring with 83 goals in 2012, while Genidounias hit the No. 5 all-time mark with 68 goals. In all, four of USC's top five scorers from 2012 are back. Mace Rapsey and Jeremy Davie provided 30 and 29 goals, respectively, last year. Zach Lucas, Rex Butler, Connor Virjee and Marc Vonderweidt each delivered at least 10 goals in 2012.

    The Trojan roster again boasts three standout players from Down Under. Goalie James Clark was a 2012 Olympian alongside former Trojan goalie Joel Dennerley. Clark earned All-American status in 2012, while his fellow Aussies Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey earned repeat All-American accolades. As key members of the past three runs to NCAA glory, Davie and Rapsey combined for 175 goals in their first three seasons of work. Clark averaged 10.1 saves and 6.3 goals against per game in his debut season with the Trojans last year.

    2012 RECAP
    USC rolled undefeated through its 2012 campaign, winning its eighth MPSF Tournament title and going on to claim its eighth overall national championship with a dramatic comeback win to beat crosstown rival UCLA 11-10 in the Trojans' home pool. Head coach Jovan Vavic was named National Coach of the Year in leading the Trojans to a perfect 29-0 record for the second time in five seasons. National Player of the Year Nikola Vavic led a group of eight All-Americans, including seniors Matt Burton, Michael Rosenthal and Stephen Siri, juniors Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey and sophomore Kostas Genidounias. USC was ranked No. 1 from start to finish in 2012, with Nikola Vavic setting a new USC with 83 goals scored in the season en route to being named a finalist for the Cutino Award. In all, the Trojan offense -- charged by 21 different scorers -- averaged 14.3 goals per game, while the defense again led the nation with just 5.9 goals against per game. USC outscored opponents 416-170 in 2012, marking the most goals scored in a year by the Trojans since at least 1983.

    Since fielding a football team in 1888, USC has had an unparalleled athletic tradition, including 120 national team championships, an unprecedented 419 Olympians and 52 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars as the Trojan family celebrates its 125th anniversary this 2013-14 academic year. Including the USC women's soccer team's historic 2007 NCAA Championship victory, USC boasts a grand total of 120 national team championships, including a national-best 82 men's NCAA crowns. Trojan men have won more individual NCAA titles (309) than those from any other school, while the Women of Troy have added another 69 individual NCAA titles. Four Trojans have won the prestigious Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. Two Women of Troy athletes have won the Honda Cup as the top collegiate female athlete of the year and there have been 15 Honda Award winners as the top female athlete in their sport. USC not only has more Olympians than any school, but more Olympic medalists (287) and gold medalists (135). USC water polo is a big part of that Olympic tradition, having sent 10 Trojans to the 2012 Olympics in Beijing, with four Trojans winning medals. Thanks in part to USC's water polo participants, a Trojan has won a gold medal in every summer Olympics since 1912. Go to to revisit the athletic highlights for Trojans the past 125 years. •