IRVINE, Calif. -- No. 2 USC pulled off two big wins on the second day of action at the SoCal Tournament, beating No. 3 Pacific in the semifinals before taking down No. 1 UCLA with a comeback win in the title match. The win keeps USC as the reigning champs of the SoCal Tournament. The Trojans have now won back-to-back SoCal crowns to make it 10 SoCal titles in the past 11 years. USC improves to 17-1 overall with the winning effort at this year's tourney.
USC first shrugged off an upset-minded Pacific squad today in the semifinals of the SoCal Tournament to set up a rematch with rival No. 1 UCLA in the title match this evening in Irvine.
The Tigers struck first in the semi tilt, and the teams traded goals for a stretch to a 3-3 lockup before the Trojans bucked that trend with a run of three that saw Ivan Kustic, Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic score in succession to take USC to a 5-3 advantage. That goal from Vavic would lock the senior in as USC's all-time scoring leader, breaking him out of a tie-up with Juraj Zatovic to give Vavic sole possession of Numero Uno with his 221st career goal. With that milestone in the books, the Trojans settled out and stayed largely in control down the stretch. Blasts from Kostas Genidounias and Mace Rapseybumped USC to a 7-4 halftime lead, and the Trojans would pitch a defensive shutout in the third to further flex their authority to a 9-4 lead advantage entering the fourth frame. There, the Tigers would manage a pair of goals, but not before Genidounias rang up his fourth of the game to net USC its 10th goal of the match, and the game would wrap up with USC in control of a 10-6 victory.
That put USC in another tournament title match against crosstown rival UCLA. The Bruins thought they were going to get away unscathed, but the Trojans were not going to let that happen today. Aside from Nikola Vavic's opening goal, the Trojans didn't ever lead during regulation play. USC trailed UCLA by two at the end of the first, second and third periods, and were down 10-7 with 4:08 to go when the Trojans kicked back into high gear. Connor Virjee sparked a three-goal USC run with his power play strike with 3:04 to go in regulation. Vavic delivered next with another 6-on-5 score to cut it to a one-goal game, and Mace Rapsey plugged in the equalizer with 1:30 on the clock. UCLA took back the lead 30 seconds later, but Kostas Genidouniaspunched in the buzzer-beater much to the Bruins' dismay to force overtime.
The first overtime frame would pass scorelessly, but Genidounias generated the go-ahead goal for the Trojans at the 1:51 mark of the second, notching his fourth of the game. UCLA got up on a 6-on-5 advantage late in the game, but USC goalie James Clarkwas up to the challenge and posted a huge block to put the finishing touch on USC's comeback surge with a 12-11 OT win to tally another SoCal Tournament title for the Trojans.