Top-Ranked Trojans Ride 15-Game Win Streak Into 12th Straight NCAA Semifinal|
Nov. 30, 2016
2016 NATIONAL COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Spieker Aquatics Complex (Berkeley, Calif.)
Saturday (Dec. 3)
3 p.m. --- Semifinal 1: USC vs. UC Davis/Harvard (Dec. 1 play-in winner)
5:12 p.m. -- Semifinal 2: UCLA vs. California/Pomona-Pitzer (Dec. 1 play-in winner)
Sunday (Dec. 4)
3 p.m. -- Championship Game: Semifinal winners
USC will ride a wave of 15 straight victories into the 2016 National Collegiate Championships, having secured an automatic berth and direct trip to the semifinals after claiming the MPSF Tournament title. With a 23-1 overall record, the Trojans are on the prowl for a 10th NCAA championship for the USC men's program, which has made 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA title match while collecting seven crowns in that run. The No. 1 team in the nation, USC is set up with an NCAA semifinal spot, awaiting its opponent for that semi -- set for 3 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 3) 3 at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley. The 2016 national championship game will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 4). Both days will have games live streamed at ncaa.com/live with Kevin Danna and Greg Mescall on the calls.
USC opened 2016 in the same place it left off last season, holding strong at No. 2 in the nation after making 11 straight trips to the NCAA final and having claimed seven national championships during that run. The Trojans were tabbed as the No. 2 team in the land for the first four weeks of play before moving to No. 3 for five weeks. The Trojans returned to the No. 2 spot after an upset win over Cal on Oct. 29, and then USC made its move to No. 1 after toppling UCLA on Nov. 12. USC's last No. 1 ranking came in October 2014.
The 2016 National Collegiate Championships has a slightly different format to the past three years, with seven teams in the mix and three play-in games in advance of the semifinals and final. Once again, the top two seeds earned a place in the semifinal round, where they await winners of play-in games.USC (23-1) captured the automatic bid and the top seed as the MPSF Tournament Champion. UCLA secured an at-large berth and the No. 2 into the NCAA tourney, with host California grabbing the other at-large berth. The rest of the field is comprised of conference champions Harvard (Northeast Water Polo Conference), Bucknell (Collegiate Water Polo Association), UC Davis (Western Water Polo Association) and Pomona-Pitzer (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference). In the opening play-in game on Nov. 28, Harvard (25-6) beat Bucknell (23-5) to advance to a Dec. 1 play-in game against UC Davis (23-5). That winner will move into the first semifinal against USC. In the other Dec. 1 play-in game, California (20-4) faces Pomona-Pitzer (21-8) to play for a spot in the opposite semifinal against UCLA. While the Trojans are making their 13th straight trip to the tournament; defending champion UCLA is making its third consecutive appearance; and Cal is making its second straight trip. For UC Davis, this is the 5th all-time NCAa appearance and first since 1997. Harvard is in the NCAA field for the first time in program history.
USC vs. California
This season: 1-1
Last: W 10-6 (Oct. 29, 2016)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: W 9-6 (2015 semifinal)
USC vs. Harvard
This season: None
Last: W 14-6 (Oct. 5, 2002)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: None
USC vs. UCLA
This season: 2-0
Last: W 9-6 (MPSF champ - Nov. 20, 2016)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: L 10-7 (2015 final)
USC vs. Pomona-Pitzer
This season: None
Last: W 24-6 (Sept. 14, 2013)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: None
USC vs. UC Davis
This season: None
Last: W 19-3 (Sept. 6, 2014)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: None
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
In 2015, USC scored an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, opening up with a play-in game to start off the Trojans' 11th consecutive NCAA journey. Fresh off a third-place finish in the MPSF Tournament in which USC posted crucial wins over Stanford and Pacific to secure a place in NCAA action, the 2015 Trojans took a 21-6 record into the National Collegiate Semifinals. USC had posted a 20-5 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the 2015 Play-In Game to face Cal in the semis. Defensively, USC was averaging 6.0 goals-against per game, and was averaging 14.2 goals per game on the offensive end. Sophomore Blake Edwards was the Trojans' top scorer with 64 goals. Sophomore goalie McQuin Baron was averaging 10.6 saves and 6.0 goals-against per game entering the tourney. Overall, USC had outscored opponents 384-163, with a grand total of eight Trojans with at least 20 goals apiece. In the NCAA semifinal against Cal, USC made a powerful stand, with Baron collecting a career-high 19 saves while Blake Edwards delivered a hat trick to help USC to a 9-6 win that launched the Trojans into the NCAA final for the 11th consecutive season. In the title match, defending champion and tournament host UCLA was able to fend off its rival for a 10-7 decision that left USC with a 22-7 final record for 2015. At tournament's end, Blake Edwards and fellow sophomore Mihajlo Milicevic were named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team, while McQuin Baron and Lachlan Edwards were named to the Second Team.
USC holds a 23-1 overall record entering the 2016 National Collegiate Semifinals, marking USC's ninth consecutive 20-win season. The Trojans will carry a 15-game win streak into this year's NCAA action, sitting back as the top seed in the tourney for the first time since 2013 -- when USC last won it all. The Trojans are coming off a powerful run at the 2016 MPSF Championships, which saw USC top Stanford 9-5 and newcomer Penn State Behrend 10-0 to take a place in the final against host UCLA. In the championship, the Trojans stayed strong and posted a 9-6 win over the Bruins after shutting out UCLA in the first period. The NCAA title winners in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Trojans are making their 12th consecutive and 31st overall appearance in the national tournament. With seven crowns claimed in the past 11 seasons, USC made history in 2012 as the first collegiate men's water polo team to make eight consecutive appearances and then added to their historic efforts in becoming the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six straight NCAA titles last season in 2013. For the ninth time in 11 seasons, USC is the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Offensively, USC is averaging 14.96 goals per game to date. Defensively, USC averages 4.13 goals-against per game. This year's offense is led by junior Blake Edwards with 40 goals, topping a tightly knit group of junior scorers. Matteo Morelli is next in line with 36 goals, followed by Lachlan Edwards with 34 and Grant Stein with 31. To date, USC has outscored opponents 359-99. Defensively, USC has held opponents scoreless in 40 periods of regulation play so far. Junior goalie McQuin Baron -- who now ranks No. 2 all-time in career saves at USC (791) -- has capped up in the cage for 22 games and is averaging 11.33 saves and 4.31 goals-against per game.
In a crosstown rivalry matchup that certainly lived up to its billing, USC put a stop to UCLA's reign at the top of the MPSF and snapped a 57-game win streak held by the Bruins with an epic 8-7 win in the Trojans' home pool at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. UCLA had a one-goal advantage entering the fourth frame, but the Trojans were undeterred. USC plugged in three clutch goals in the final period. After a go-ahead goal from Blake Edwards in the final minute, goalie McQuin Baron knocked down one last save, securing a key victory for the Trojans. For his nine saves in helping anchor USC to the big win, Baron was named MPSF Player of the Week for the first time this season and third time in his Trojan career.
VAVIC HITS 500 (AGAIN)
The Trojans' 23-1 mark in this 2016 season now has Jovan Vavic gripping 517 career wins at the helm of the USC men's program. Vavic captured that 500th career victory on Sept. 17 in USC's 8-4 win at Stanford. Coincidentally, Vavic's 500th career win as the USC women's head coach came last season in a win over Stanford -- a 7-6 victory in the semifinals of the 2016 UCI Invitational. Vavic is one of just four USC coaches to collect 500 or more wins while at Troy.
With his fifth goal of the first half against UC Santa Barbara -- on 5-for-5 shooting, no less -- junior Blake Edwards became the 33rd Trojan to hit 100 goals in his USC career. He's one of five current Trojans who entered the year with that USC Century Club on their radars, but he became the first to hit the 100 mark with that five-goal performance on Oct. 16. He now stands at No. 32 all-time with 108 career goals.
ON THE RISE
USC has several Trojans rising in the rankings this year. Junior goalie McQuin Baron already has laid claim to the top two single-season saves marks, and in doing so has helped him rise to USC's No. 2 all-time saves leader this year. On Oct. 7, Baron made the move to No. 2, and he now holds 791 career saves. The record-holder at Troy is Cutino Award winner and four-time NCAA champ Joel Dennerley, who collected 855 saves from 2008-11. On the offensive end, Blake Edwards hit the century mark on Oct. 16, to lead a group of five Trojans who've been closing the gap on the 100-goal club at Troy. Matteo Morelli scored his 100th next and moments later was joined in the club by Grant Stein, who also hit 100 on Oct. 27. On Oct. 29 Lachlan Edwards joined the crew with his first goal in USC's win over Cal. Now, it's just senior Nick Bell (96) who remains on the brink of breaking the century mark. Stay tuned!
For this 2016 season, USC welcomes back every one of its eight All-Americans, and only one of them -- Nick Bell -- is a senior. What's more, USC has all but two members of its 2015 NCAA Tournament roster back on active duty for 2016. That means firepower, experience and daunting skill is available at every turn for the Trojans. In all, USC returned its top six scorers from 2015, including All-American honorees Blake Edwards, Grant Stein, Lachlan Edwards, Matteo Morelli and Bell, while defensive dangers Mihajlo Milicevic and James Walters and newly inked Olympian McQuin Baron also bring back their All-American talent to Troy for 2016. That crew of returning All-Americans accounted for 64 percent of USC's offensive output. Top scorer Blake Edwards scored 68 goals all on his own in 2015, tallying the sixth most single-season goals scored by a Trojan.
For the first time since 1958, USC has a roster studded with two returning Olympians. Junior McQuin Baron and freshman Thomas Dunstan both earned themselves trips to Rio de Janeiro last summer as members of the United States Olympic Team. At those 2016 Games, Baron and Dunstan got to rub elbows with two Trojan greats -- USC's all-time top scorer Kostas Genidounias capped up for Greece, while USC's all-time leader in saves Joel Dennerley was between the pipes once again for Australia.
In his first season at Troy, Blake Edwards was USC's top scorer. Now, he is a member of a ridiculously talented junior class. Fellow All-Americans Grant Stein, Matteo Morelli, James Walters, Mihajlo Milicevic and Lachlan Edwards are all now juniors, as are savvy scorers Bryce Hoerman and Lazar Pasuljevic. In fact, USC's top four scorers from 2015 are all also classmates: the Edwards brothers, Stein and Morelli. They're also leading the pack this year, as that foursome has accounted for 141 goals to date in 2016 -- 39% of USC's total scoring.
USC's youth movement remains solid. In their first season of work as Trojans, Zach D'Sa and Chase Koplow combined for 32 goals last year, and both were members of USC's 2015 NCAA Tournament roster. They have provided 17 and 11 goals, respectively, in 2016 so far. USC is further buoyed by a group of talented new Trojans. Clearly, 2016 Olympian Thomas Dunstan brings in some serious credentials for his freshman campaign, but several other newcomers have proven their power along with a few Trojans who redshirted last season. True freshmen Marin Dasic (28 goals) and Dunstan (21) are the top scorers of that new crew so far. Freshman Matt Maier is close behind with 18 goals, while redshirt freshmen Daniel Leong (12) and Sam Slobodien (11) clock in next. Adding to the influx of new talent are goalies Simon Wu and Will Rubschlager, who have checked in for five and four games each, respectively.
The Trojan roster boasts a lot of brotherly love this season. Two 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, as they hover at the top USC's scoresheet this season. Lachlan came to USC as a true freshman in 2014 and soon convinced his older brother Blake to join the fun. Blake arrived in 2015 and also is now a junior academically alongside Lachlan. Hawaiian products, the Leong brothers (Tim and Daniel) also combine forces on the 2016 roster this year as a redshirt sophomore and freshman, respectively. Four more Trojans are capped up for USC just as their older siblings have done. James Walters (brother Jon), Grant Stein (sister Michelle), Nick Silvers (sister Chelsea and brother Andrew) and Murphy Slater (sister Melanie) have all followed their family trees to Troy.
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 junior at USC, coming off two seasons in which the younger Walters earn All-American Honorable Mention.
USC rolled up another impressive run to the NCAA final in 2015 -- the Trojans' 11th consecutive trip to the title match -- and finished up the season with a 22-7 overall record. USC posted a 6-3 record in MPSF play to snag the No. 4 seed into the conference tournament, where the Trojans were under pressure to perform in order to continue its NCAA tournament streak. A tense 7-6 overtime win over Stanford in the opening round was the first key. And after a loss to top-seeded UCLA in the semifinals, USC faced a must-win third-place matchup against No. 2 seeded Pacific. The Trojans were all business in that one, topping the Tigers decisively 8-4. That was crucial in earning USC a place in the NCAA tournament, scoring a place in the play-in game, which the Trojans won handily. USC followed that with a solid 9-6 win over Cal in the NCAA semis to earn a championship rematch with UCLA. The host Bruins were able to hold off the Trojans in that one with a 10-7 decision in the title match. USC would go on to place a whopping eight Trojans on the All-America list -- all of whom return for this 2016 campaign. Blake Edwards picked up first team honors in his first season as a Trojan, scoring 68 goals to lead USC on the scoresheet in 2015. In all, the USC offense -- with 21 different scorers -- averaged 13.8 goals per game, while the defense allowed 6.2 goals against per game. By the close of the year, USC had outscored opponents 400-179.