USC Men’s Water Polo No.2 hosts Pepperdine on Saturday and spends Sunday at the Inland Empire Classic
Men’s water polo shirt | September 08, 2021
# 2 USC (1-0) vs. # 10 Pepperdine (3-1)
Saturday September 11 | 3 p.m.
Uytengsu Aquatic Center
Series record: USC leads 66-20-2 (W1)
Last meeting: USC 13, PEP 7 (February 14, 2021)
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CLASSIC INLAND EMPIRE
Axelrood Pool (Claremont, California)
# 2 USC vs. Westerner
Sunday September 12 | 9h00
Series record: USC leads 3-0
Last meeting: USC 24, OXY 0 (September 13, 2014)
# 2 USC at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Sunday September 12 | 11:30 a.m.
Series record: USC leads 16-0
Last meeting: USC 21, CMS 9 (September 14, 2019)
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The USC No.2 is having a busy weekend, settling first at home before two tilts on the road. On Saturday September 11, the Trojans (1-0) welcome No.10 Pepperdine (3-1) at 3 p.m. at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The next day, USC travels to Claremont to participate in the Inland Empire Classic. That Sunday (September 12), USC took on Occidental at 9 a.m. before facing host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 11:30 a.m.
USC started this 2021 season as second in the national preseason poll and first in the MPSF coaching poll. In the latest round of national rankings (September 8), USC remains at No. 2 in the country after the first weekend of competition.
Waves # 10 are 3-1 overall after competing at the Triton Invitational last week. Pepperdine defeated CBU (12-10), Biola (19-4) and Occidental (18-5) and lost to UC San Diego (17-12) in the event. Sean Ferrari is the Waves’ leading scorer with 10 goals. Goalkeeper John Claude Marco is averaging 5.5 saves and 10.9 goals against per game in his four appearances. In a streak dating back to 1979, USC is 66-20-2 all-time against Pepperdine. Last year, USC beat Pepperdine 13-7 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
The Tigers enter this week 0-4 on aggregate after competing at the Triton Invitational last week. Oxy lost to UC San Diego (17-4), UC Santa Barbara (24-5), Long Beach State (18-5) and Pepperdine (18-5) in the event. Keegan Klein is the Tigers’ leading scorer with five goals. In a streak dating back to 1980, USC is 3-0 against Pepperdine. In the last meeting, the Trojans beat the Tigers 24-0 in the 2014 Inland Empire Classic in Redlands.
The Stags enter this week 2-2 in aggregate after competing at the Rare Air Challenge last week. CMS defeated McKendree (10-5) and Ottawa, Arizona (15-6) and lost to hosts Air Force (15-7) and Cal Lutheran (15-6) in the event. Sam Harrison is the Stags’ leading scorer with six goals. In a series dating back to 1983, USC is 16-0 against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. In the last meeting, the Trojans beat the Tigers 21-9 at the 2019 Inland Empire Classic in Claremont.
USC came out of the gates of this 2021 season with a pair of high-powered efforts last weekend. The doubles program began with a morning clash against West Valley College, where 12 Trojans scored to build a 27-9 victory over the Vikings in an exhibition contest. USC’s first official action of the year followed soon after, with the Trojans defeating La Verne 28-5 behind an assault from 14 different Trojan scorers to give USC a 1-0 start to the season. USC Guards Nic Porter and Blake jackson teamed up with the cage in both tests, the senior Porter combining well with the freshman Jackson redshirt. Jackson’s first action as a Trojan horse was marked by a shutout in fourth frame in the win over the Leopards. The morning started off slowly for the Trojans, who saw West Valley take the lead before the Trojans responded with a seven-goal push that extended from first to second. Back from the Olympics, Hannes Daube scored two goals in this Trojan rally as USC took the lead with a 10-3 lead. USC scored three goals in a row to conclude the first half, with Chris Sturtevant back to back to build a 17-5 USC lead at the break. He would finish USC’s top scorer with four goals against the Vikings, while Daube, McGuire, Marcus Longton, Alexandre lansill and Jacob Mercep each scored hat tricks in show action as USC posted a 27-9 decision over West Valley. From there, the Trojans got back to work with their first official test of the season. USC scored the game’s first eight goals in that one, with Jacob Mercep by scoring three in this rally. USC would trigger another wave of eight goals soon after. Mercep took his total to five goals with two more in this race, with Hannes Daube also adding a pair, while the first year Jake carter scored his first goal as a Trojan horse. In the fourth quarter, the USC defense allowed no goals, and another USC freshman earned his stripes as Aidan Wattson scored his first Trojan horse goal en route to a 28-5 Trojan victory.
Only two members of the 2020 NCAA tournament roster have left, while USC hosts a trio of U.S. National Team players – all three already All-American with NCAA tournament experience – who were training at the ‘foreigner. Those bodies include heavyweights, with USC’s leading scorer in the past three seasons – Jacob Mercep – back for more and joined by Olympians Hannes Daube and Marko Vavic. Add to that the firepower of National Teamer Ashworth Molthen, a transfer from UCLA, with a senior sniper Jake ehrhardt, and USC’s attack power is downright formidable. The USC danger zone on the left side is noticeably deep, with Mercep and Molthen joined by junior Marcus Longton – another power proven on the perimeter.
Even more versatility stems from a batch of Trojans that enjoyed key playing time in their first season at USC. Now in second year, it is well known that Carson Kranz, Max Miller, Tony Nardelli and Tom mcguire can pack a bit of oomph. Also in his second season as a Trojan is a graduate student Wyatt barker, who has grown into an intimidating two-meter presence and is back for more in 2021. We see more skills returning in Chris Sturtevant, Stefan Vavic and Joshua Waldoch, with the highly anticipated addition of a Croatian freshman Luka Brnetic sure to make a splash for Trojans.
From a leadership perspective, USC also relies on certain pillars. Olympian Marko Vavic brings back extensive experience from his travels, joining a set of solid top-level advice from Alexandre lansill, Nic Porter, Ehrhardt and Mercep. Porter’s voice is particularly powerful, as he’s set to finish in the cage for his fourth season with the Trojan goal. The Aussie All-American is the backbone of the Trojan defense and, along with the rest of its senior Trojans, is determined to finish 2021 with another NCAA Championship ring to go with their 2018 title.
FIGHTERS IN CAGE
Nic Porter has some talented young goalkeepers by his side this year, with a rookie redshirt Blake jackson thrive in a competitor for significant playing time. Garrett allen also returns to the cage, with two new Trojan goalkeepers also in the mix in the transfer of Pepperdine graduates Kyle McKenney and real freshman Eric Hubner.
Marko Pintaric, who has competed in 14 NCAA Championships in his 20 years on the USC coaching staff, is in his third year leading the Trojan water polo program. Last season, on the men’s side, he guided the Trojans to a 16th straight NCAA appearance, reaching the NCAA Finals for the 15th time in that span. Pintaric was named the head coach of the USC men’s and women’s water polo teams on August 29, 2019, replacing former head coach Jovan Vavic. All-American and 1998 NCAA Champion as a player with USC, Pintaric has served as the USC men’s co-head coach for the past three seasons (2016-18), most recently helping the Trojans in the 2018 NCAA Championship. His coaching career with USC began as an assistant coach of the USC men and women in 2001. Pintaric remained in a dual coaching role until NCAA coaching staff size rules change in 2015-16, prompting a move to a recruiting director role with women. while his role as assistant coach continued with the men for the next four years. From 2021, Pintaric has a full team of coaches, with assistant coaches Connor Virjee and Jeremy Davie on the staff of men.
THE LAST SEASON
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 men’s water polo competition was moved to the spring and featured a condensed schedule for MPSF teams. USC was ranked No. 1 to open the competition, which included three round robin tournaments between MPSF teams and a single non-conference meeting for USC against Pepperdine. The Trojans are reportedly posting a 3-7 record in those MPSF meetings, finishing third in the MPSF tournament and winning a 16th straight trip to the NCAA tournament. USC would host the NCAA event, reaching the final for the 15th time in 16 years. The NCAA title game was close and USC would fall 7-6 to UCLA. In an abridged honor roll for 2020, three Trojans took home ACWPC All-America First Team honors – Jake ehrhardt, Jacob Mercep and Nic Porter. •