SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 1 USC won its ninth SoCal Tournament championship in the past decade thanks to a bombshell dropped on host UC Santa Barbara in the title match, sparked by a career-high six goals from Nikola Vavic.
The Trojans brought the No. 6 Gauchos back down to earth after UCSB’s upset of No. 2 UCLA in the semifinals by serving up a 14-5 win to take the tournament crown. USC remains unbeaten at 14-0.
With his new career-high six goals in the game, Vavic became the third Trojan since 2001 to score six in a single game. Vavic catapults up the USC all-time scoring charts to 14th with 133 career goals. He had entered the tournament ranked No. 20 before totaling 14 goals in the four games this weekend.
Vavic set the tone immediately as he rifled in a hat trick before the Gauchos could even get on the board. What became3-1 lead was bumped to 4-1 on a score from Zach Lucas, and though UCSB would again cut it to two at 4-2, the Trojans found a quick response. Goalie James Clark put a stop to a Gaucho 6-on-5 and USC went the other way, rattling off three consecutive scores. Kostas Genidounias lit the fuse to go up 5-2, and Vavic hammered home his fourth soon after. Genidounias again hit the back of the net, and the Trojans were holding a hefty 7-2 advantage early in the second.
UCSB snapped the streak with a score, only to see another Trojan goal from Connor Virjee. Another goal followed after with a bar-in blast from Genidounias to heap a 9-3 Trojan lead on its hosts by halftime.
Vavic opened the third period with a 6-on-5 finish to match his career high of five goals and take the Trojans ahead 10-3. While Clark continued to rack up save after save for the Trojan defense, Vavic picked up his sixth goal to give USC an 11-3 advantage going into the final frame.
After a scoreless third, UCSB stopped a 4-0 scoring run by the Trojans with a goal as Ely Bonilla took over the cage for Clark in the fourth. Rex Butler joined Vavic and Virjee as successful left-handed Trojan scorers. Up 12-4 on Butler’s blast, USC saw Andrew Reego and Russell Renteria strike, too, before the Gauchos got one to go to make it 14-5.