No. 1-seed USC stays undefeated to claim MPSF conference crown
LOS ANGELES -- USC's hopes of contending for a fifth consecutive national championship live strong after the Trojans won their eighth MPSF Tournament title with a resounding 9-5 victory against California at McDonald's Swim Stadium. USC has stormed through the 2012 season, racking up an undefeated record through Sunday's conference championship. The 27-0 Trojans now stand with the automatic bid into next week's NCAA tournament, which will be held at USC's own McDonald's Swim Stadium from Dec. 1-2.
USC stole the conference crown away from an upset-minded California squad. The No. 4-seeded Bears knocked out No. 2 UCLA in Saturday's semifinals while the Trojans held off No. 4-seeded Stanford to earn their spot in the title match.
Leading the pack on the scoring front for the first time this year was junior Mace Rapsey, who paired his usual solid defense with four big goals for the Trojans. Senior Matt Burton added a pair to the score, while USC's high-powered guns Kostas Genidounias and Nikola Vavic also plugged in scores along with Connor Virjee.
Vavic now holds 79 goals this season -- the most by a Trojan in a single season since 1988 and the third-best all-time at Troy. His career total also ballooned this tournament, as he has 169 career goals into the coming NCAA tournament as USC's No. 3 all-time goal scorer. Genidounias also doubled his freshman total with 62 goals so far this year for a total that ranks eighth most all-time.
The Trojans led by as much as five goals in the second half as Mace Rapsey completed his first hat trick of the year for USC. But the Bears pulled it to a two-goal game just ticks away from the fourth frame.
After Kostas Genidounias popped a pass to Connor Virjee at two meters, Virjee rocketed in the score to give USC an 8-5 lead early in the fourth. The Trojan defense took care of the rest, pitching its second shutout frame against the Bears to fend off any Cal hopes of a comeback.
With goalie James Clark holding strong in the cage and Trojan field players coming up with key steals, USC went on to add one more score to the goal count with 3:12 to go. Stephen Siri set that one up, finding Matt Burton at set for a turn and flip to the back of the net that put a 9-5 USC lead on the board for the duration.
The four-team NCAA tournament field is still awaiting one at-large team to be named. Along with USC as automatic seeds per conference championships are Air Force and St. Francis.