USC Plays Host to 2015 MPSF Tournament This Week

    James Walters and the Trojans defend their home pool at the MPSF Tournament this week
    Nov. 18, 2015

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    THIS WEEK
    USC plays host to arguably the most important tournament of the year this week, with the 2015 MPSF Tournament coming fast to the Trojans’ Uytengsu Aquatics Center, running Nov. 20-22. The jostling for NCAA berths begins Friday (Nov. 20) in a full day of opening competition with all 10 teams in action. The No. 4 seeded Trojans (18-5) open their push for NCAA qualification with a bigtime battle against No. 5 seed Stanford (20-7) at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. The winner of that game will keep hopes alive of scoring an NCAA slot as they move into the 2:30 p.m. semifinal on Saturday (Nov. 21). On Sunday (Nov. 22), placement games will take place, with marquee matchups coming in the 3 p.m. third-place game and the 4:30 p.m. championship bout. The MPSF Tournament champion will earn an automatic berth into the coming 2015 NCAA Tournament.

    THE LAST MEETING
    USC9
    Stanford (Semifinal)6
    October 11, 2015
    Malibu, Calif.
    No. 2 Trojans Scoot Through To SoCal Title Match With 9-6 Win over Stanford
    The No. 2 USC men’s water polo team pinned up a 9-6 win over No. 3 Stanford in today’s Kap7 SoCal Invitational semifinal bout in Malibu. The Trojans led the Cardinal all the way through the game in order to punch their ticket to the title match, where USC will go in defense of three consecutive SoCal tournament crowns and tangle with rival No. 1 UCLA in the final. The Trojans and the Bruins will do battle for the first time this season in a 5:20 p.m. title match today (Oct. 11) at Pepperdine’s Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool.

    THE LAST MEETING
    Long Beach City College6
    USC15
    September 26, 2009
    McDonald's Swim Stadium
    FOLLOW ALONG
    Fans can access ticket links as well as live streams, stats and schedule information at the MPSF Tournament Central page. USC will be live streaming every game on Friday and Saturday, as well Sunday’s 7th and 5th place games, at pac-12.com/live/usc. Pac-12 Networks will be televising Sunday’s third place and championship games on Pac-12 Bay Area and Pac-12 Los Angeles, with Jim Watson and Greg Mescall on the call.

    MPSF TOURNAMENT CENTRAL

    USC LIVE STREAM [all games except 3rd Place and Championship]

    PAC-12 NETWORKS LIVE STREAM (Subscribers Only)

    RANKINGS
    USC was tabbed at No. 2 in the nation in the preseason national poll and in the MPSF preseason coaches’ poll as the Trojans take aim the 2015 season. USC has reached the NCAA title match for 10 consecutive seasons, with seven championships won in that span, and the Trojans are intent on a return trip to the top this year. The Trojans spent two weeks at the No. 3 spot but jumped back up to No. 2 on Oct. 7 and remained there until going to No. 3 on Oct. 28. The Trojans are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation for the third week in a row.

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    USC was 23-6 overall and the No. 3 seed in the 2014 MPSF Tournament, which was hosted by Long Beach State. USC opened up with a 12-5 win over UC Irvine in the first round and then fell 7-4 to Stanford in the semifinals. In the third-place game, USC lost to UCLA 10-5 to finish in fourth place at the 2014 tournament. USC would go on to earn a No. 3 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and reached the NCAA final for the 10th straight season. USC fell to UCLA in the 2014 national championship match to finish out the year 24-7 overall.

    AND NOW...
    This year, the Trojans have the No. 4 seed in this 2015 MPSF Tournament after going 6-2 in MPSF play to hold an 18-5 overall record entering the postseason. USC is looking for a strong run in the tournament in order to keep hopes alive of extending their 10-year streak of trips to the NCAA title match. USC has won nine MPSF Tournament championships to date, last winning it in 2013. This year, the MPSF Tournament includes 10 teams, with the addition of San Jose State to the scene this season. The top six seeds in the MPSF field this year are top-seeded UCLA (25-0), No. 2 seed Pacific (22-3), No. 3 seed California (21-5), the No. 4 Trojans, No. 5 seed Stanford (20-7) and No. 6 seed UC Santa Barbara, (16-9) with each earning a place in the quarterfinal round to start things off. The bottom four seeds will compete in play-in games in order to reach the quarterfinals. Those teams are No. 7 seed UC Irvine (14-10), No. 8 Long Beach State (11-14), No. 9 Pepperdine (11-14) and No. 10 San Jose State (3-24).

    NOTABLE NO. 4 SEED
    The last time USC entered the MPSF Tournament as the No. 4 seed was 2013, when the Trojans beat California, host Pacific and then Stanford to claim their ninth overall MPSF Tournament title and take the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans would go on to win a sixth straight national championship that season in taking the 2013 NCAA title.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    As the Trojans now enter the postseason, they continue to boast some powerful numbers. Newcomer Blake Edwards leads the Trojans with 60 goals, averaging 2.61 per game to rank No. 2 in the conference this season. USC also has Grant Stein standing tall with 35 goals, Lachlan Edwards with 33 and Matteo Morelli with 30. To date, USC has outscored opponents 346-142. Defensively, USC is allowing just 6.17 goals per game and has held opponents scoreless in 17 periods of regulation play so far. Sophomore goalie McQuin Baron — who now ranks No. 8 all-time in career saves at USC (490) — has capped up in the cage for every games and is averaging 10.2 saves per game. USC ranks No. 1 in the MPSF in offense (15.04 gpg) and No. 2 in defense (6.17 gapg).

    FAMILY TIES
    The Trojan roster boasts a lot of brotherly love this season. Three 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 93 goals to date. The Silvers brothers (Andrew & Nick) have produced 18 goals. The Leong brothers (Tim and Daniel) also combine forces on the 2015 roster this year. Four more Trojans are capped up for USC just as their older siblings have done. James Walters (brother Jon), Grant Stein (sister Michelle), Nick Lavayen (sister Stephanie and brother Alex) and Murphy Slater (sister Melanie) have all followed their family trees to Troy.

    2015 TROJANS AT A GLANCE
    As head coach Jovan Vavic digs into his third decade at the helm of the USC water polo program, the 2015 Trojans are a force to reckon with once again. Coming off their 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA final, the Trojans bring back a hefty load of players from that 2014 campaign. The only Trojan with three full seasons under his belt is redshirt senior Mac Carden. Meanwhile, USC’s youth movement now includes a powerful group of sophomores, including All-Americans McQuin Baron, Mihajlo Milicevic and James Walters. The relative veteran of that 2014 All-American crew, Nick Bell, enters his junior season as a Trojan. Baron and Bell also were All-MPSF honorees last season along with now-graduated All-Americans Rex Butler and Marc Vonderweidt and Cutino Award winner Kostas Genidounias.

    BLAKE TOPS THE CHARTS
    For the first time in a couple years, the USC scoring record seems to be safe. In 2013 and 2014, the Trojans saw the program scoring record broken — first by Nikola Vavic in 2013 and then by Kostas Genidounias in 2014. And yet still, this season USC does have a standout Trojan making noise similar to that of his USC top guns predecessors. Transfer Blake Edwards leads the Trojans with 60 goals through 23 games this year, which is the 10th most goals scored by a Trojan in a single season. Edwards, Vavic and Genidounias are the only Trojans to score 58 or more goals in a single season since Juraj Zatovic finished with 68 in 2005. Edwards may only have two seasons to compete at USC, but his scoring prowess has certainly helped USC make up ground on the scoring front in 2015.

    HISTORY REPEATING
    With only two seniors on the roster this season, the Trojans have a large set of younger players flying under the radar this season, as no returning Trojan came into the season with more than 43 career goals. The last time that USC had a similar makeup was 2010, according to head coach Jovan Vavic. That year, USC had no seniors on the roster, and still went on to capture a third consecutive NCAA championship. This season, aside from redshirt senior Mac Carden, the only other Trojan with first-hand experience of playing in and winning an NCAA championship is junior All-American Nick Bell, who raised the 2013 trophy alongside Carden. Now entering another heated postseason push, the Trojans’ balanced effort remains apparent, with 10 players having scored 15 goals or more, with five of those Trojans combining for just over half USC’s offensive output to date.

    YOUTH MOVEMENT
    In 2014, USC had a whopping nine freshmen on the roster for the NCAA Tournament. Three of those freshmen earned All-American status last season and are back for more along with fellow All-American junior Nick Bell. Mihajlo Milicevic, James Walters and goalie McQuin Baron were All-American honorees after making a huge splash on the scene in their first seasons as Trojans. Baron set a USC record for single-season saves with 288 blocks logged in the cage last year. He’s joined once again in leading USC’s goalkeeping corps with sophomore Ben Goncharenko, with redshirt freshman goalie Steven Michaud also in the mix this season. USC’s depth charge runs deeper as one takes into account the likes of sophomores Lachlan Edwards, Bryce Hoerman, Matteo Morelli, Lazar Pasuljevic and Grant Stein — all members of USC’s 2014 NCAA Tournament roster. Morelli was the most productive of the group last year, scoring 40 goals for the Trojan cause, just ahead of 34 from Walters, 33 from Stein and 31 from Edwards. This year is seeing a similar trend as Edwards (33 goals) and Stein (35) have already bettered or matched those scoring marks. Morelli (30) and Walters (19) are also factoring in heavily again to the Trojan offensive onslaught in their sophomore seasons.

    FRESH FACES
    Along with the addition of junior newcomer Blake Edwards, USC has a solid set of talent locked into their first season of action as Trojans. True freshmen Zach D’Sa, Nick Lavayen and Nick Silvers are in line to considerable playing time this year. Head coach Jovan Vavic also is excited about the activation of a few players who redshirted last year, namely Murphy Slater, Tristan Reinhardt and Chase Koplow, as well as the marked improvement of redshirt sophomore Mitch Embrey. Many of those newbies wasted little time getting on the scoresheet, and the trend has continued. In all, nine players who have logged their first career minutes at Trojans this season have scored so far this year.

    QUALIFIED!
    Over the summer, several Trojans combined forces with their respective national teams in order to secure qualification to the coming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Current USC goalie McQuin Baron capped up along with USC grad Nikola Vavic for Team USA, winning gold at the 2015 Pan American Games to earn the United States a spot in Rio. Weeks later, those two Trojans were among a group of four USC men in action at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. When the waves settled out there, USC’s recent grad Kostas Genidounias was gripping a bronze medal that secured Greece a ticket to the 2016 Games. The fourth Trojan male competing at Worlds was another Cutino Award winner, goalie Joel Dennerley, who is looking to make another Olympic appearance for Australia when he and the Aussies fight for qualification out of Oceania.

    2014 RECAP
    USC continued its streak of reaching NCAA title matches after upsetting No. 2 seeded Stanford in sudden-death overtime in the NCAA semifinals. The No. 3 seeded Trojans had to start their NCAA journey with a play-in game, and would surge into the final to face top-seeded UCLA. A 9-8 loss left the 2014 Trojans short of a seventh consecutive national championship, but the young Trojans had made a statement still in reaching the NCAA final for the 10th straight year. Under head coach Jovan Vavic’s guidance, USC finished the 2014 campaign with a 24-7 overall record after a 6-2 mark in MPSF play. Senior Kostas Genidounias broke USC’s all-time scoring record en route to being named the Peter J. Cutino Award recipient to go along with his 2014 honors as MPSF and National Player of the Year. The four-time All-American was joined by fellow seniors Rex Butler and Marc Vonderweidt on 2014’s All-American honor roll, as were four representatives of USC’s youth movement in sophomore Nick Bell and freshmen McQuin Baron, Mihajlo Milicevic and James Walters. In all, the Trojan offense — charged by 21 different scorers — averaged 14-2 goals per game, while the defense allowed 6.9 goals against per game. By season’s end, USC had outscored opponents 439-213. Freshman goalie Baron set the USC record for single-season saves with 288 collected in his first year as a Trojan.

    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 sophomore at USC, coming off a freshman campaign that saw the younger Walters earn All-American Honorable Mention in 2014. •