STANFORD, Calif. — A stalwart performance by the USC men’s water polo team propelled the No. 1 Trojans to a solid 9-6 win against No. 5 host Stanford Saturday at the Avery Aquatic Center.
With the sun in its defense’s eyes during the first half of play, USC emerged from the half with a 4-3 ahead of the Cardinal before building a four-goal lead in the second half. Behind a second-half hat trick from Tobias Preuss, the Trojans captured their 17th consecutive win, improving to 15-0 overall on the year with a 2-0 record in MPSF play.
Although the Cardinal looked livelier in the early goings, the Trojans stole the spotlight with a serious third-quarter stand. After Nikola Vavic opened the scoring with an outside strike early in the game, Stanford forced USC to play catchup after plugging in back-to-back goals. Vavic equalized to 2-2 on a 5-meter penalty shot earned by Matt Burton, but Stanford would go up again with a perimeter skipper on its first possession of the second period. That prompted a defensive stand by the Trojans, keyed by three saves in a row from goalie James Clark. Meanwhile, the Trojans got level again on a nearside blast from Rex Butler before Kostas Genidounias gave USC a lead with a rocket in the final minute, ending the first half with the score 4-3.
As the teams switched ends, it was the Stanford defense that had to account for the glare of the sun for the second half of action. USC took full advantage and racked up four goals while Stanford punched through just one goal early in the third. Preuss was in full swing for the Trojans as he delivered the first and last goals of the frame, while Mace Rapsey and Michael Rosenthal went back-to-back as USC scored the last three of the period to put the Cardinal in a four-goal hole, leading 8-4 entering the fourth.
In the final frame, Preuss would top off his hat trick after Burton popped the ball out to him from set. Preuss recorded his third to answer a perimeter score from Stanford and again build a four-goal advantage, up 9-5 on the Cardinal. The USC defense continued to reign supreme with a few more takeways before Stanford managed a late-game goal to leave the score 9-6 in the Trojan victory.