USC heads to championship match after downing Air Force 18-7
LOS ANGELES -- USC's Nikola Vavic set a new record for goals scored in a season by a Trojan with his hat trick on Saturday, but it was sophomore Kostas Genidounias who punched in the bigger numbers with a five-goal game in USC's 18-7 win against Air Force in a NCAA semifinal at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
With the win, the Trojans advance to Sunday's national championship game. There, the USC squad is looking to extend its undefeated 2012 record in order to capture an unprecedented fifth consecutive men's water polo national championship. The 28-0 Trojans will square off against crosstown rival UCLA in the title match for the third time in the past four seasons.
The top-seeded Trojans had a rocky start against No. 4-seed Air Force in the semifinals. The Falcons equalized early and took a 2-1 lead in the first four minutes. The Trojans then scored four goals in a row to move ahead 5-2 on a score from Jack Plaga to open the second frame.
Air Force snapped it with a sweep next, but USC striked off on another rallying run with six consecutive goals across halftime and into the third in building an 11-3 advantage. Genidounias' third of the day came during that run, as did a pair of blasts from Vavic.
USC goalies James Clark and Ely Bonilla shared time in the cage, with Clark handling the first half and Bonilla in for the second. By the final whistle, Genidounias had wrapped up his five goals to bump his season tally up to 67 -- sixth most in a single season in program history. Meanwhile, Vavic scored a hat trick to set a new USC record with 82 goals this year.
Also getting in on the high-scoring action for the Trojans was sophomore Marc Vonderweidt, who registered his first career hat trick to help power USC into the title match. In all, nine different USC scorers got to the back of the net.
USC now turns to focus in on a fifth consecutive national championship. Standing in the Trojans' way is UCLA (28-4), which USC beat 7-6 to win the 2009 NCAA title and then beat again 7-4 last year to make history as the first men's water polo team to win four consecutive crowns.
The Trojans and the Bruins have clashed twice already this season, with USC keeping its undefeated record intact with 7-6 and 10-9 wins.