BERKELEY, Calif. — Top-seeded USC put itself in position to make history with a resounding 17-4 semifinal win against Princeton. The Trojans are looking to become the first team in men’s water polo history to win four consecutive national championships as they enter tomorrow’s title match against either cross-town rival UCLA. USC is now 23-3 overall entering the final.
The winners of the last three NCAA crowns, the Trojans are appearing in their seventh consecutive national championship game, with four titles already won in that span entering Sunday’s title match. USC seniors Joel Dennerley, Peter Kurzeka and Matt Burton have been members of the past three championship teams, and although Burton is sidelined by injury for this year’s run, the Trojan trio is the backbone of experienced leadership entering this 2011 championship.
Kurzeka had a first-frame hat trick to lead six different Trojans scorers in the first half as USC racked up a 10-2 lead on the Tigers. The solid lead enabled the Trojans to spread both playing time and scoring around, with nine different players getting to the back of the cage led by Kurzeka and Nikola Vavic with four goals apiece. Defensively, MPSF Player of the Year Joe Dennerley was spelled at halftime in the cage by Ely Bonilla. Dennerley pinned up five saves in the first half, and Bonilla added three as the Trojan defense allowed just one Princeton goal per period down the stretch.
USC got out of the gates with a 4-0 lead – three of those goals from Kurzeka – before Princeton got a 6-on-5 strike to go to stop the run. A 5-0 USC scoring run followed, however, and the Trojans powered ahead 9-1 as the scoring spread between five different scorers. USC’s 10-2 halftime grew to 12-2 before another Princeton power play conversion, but Vavic and Kostas Genidounias sliced in scores soon after to make it a 14-3 lead entering the fourth. The Tigers got another one to go early, but USC pumped in the final three goals of the game to wrap up a 17-4 win and a ticket to tomorrow’s title match.