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No. 2 USC Men’s Water Polo Makes Fourth-Frame Rally To Take Third At MPSF Tourney, Beating No. 1 Cal 11-9

Nov 21, 2021

STANFORD, CALIF. — The No. 2 USC men's water polo team nabbed a crucial win in a rubber match with top-ranked California, beating the Bears 11-9 in today's MPSF Tournament third-place game at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. The Trojans trailed by one goal on three occasions, but hit the gas in the fourth frame with a three-goal surge to break a tie and take the lead for good. Jacob Mercep scored three goals in the win, while goalie Nic Porter hauled in 14 saves to stake his claim as the No. 4 all-time goalie at USC, now with 652 career saves. The Trojans improve to 17-2 overall with their second win over the Golden Bears this season.

After the close of the event, USC's Jacob Mercep and Nic Porter were both named to the MPSF All-Tournament Team.

USC drew first blood with a rocket from Hannes Daube midway through the first quarter, but Cal would equalize and then manage a go-ahead goal with a strike just three seconds before the buzzer. Early in the second, redshirt freshman Joshua Waldoch buried his first postseason goal to snarl things up 2-2, although Cal would have an answer for that one as well as fiery blast from Jake Ehrhardt. Tied up 3-3, it would be Jacob Mercep's first of the day to tug the Trojans on top 4-3 in the final minute of the half.

A wild third period ensued, as USC went ahead 5-3 on a slammer from Max Miller at the post off a Daube feed. Cal responded with back-to-back goals to level it, and then Mercep sizzled in a skipper to make it 6-5 at the midway point of the third. Cal hammered in back-to-back goals again to serve notice to the Trojans and move ahead 7-6 with just five ticks to go. In a last-ditch effort to close out the third, USC put Ashworth Molthen in the goalie cap, and Molthen delivered. He catapulted a shot from distance, beating the buzzer as he found the back of the net to lock things up at 7-7 entering the fourth.

In that final eight minutes, USC was on its game. Wyatt Barker ripped in the go-ahead goal out of the gates, but the Bears countered and evened it at 8-8 with 6:18 on the clock. The Trojan defense locked in for the next stretch, while the offense manufactured three straight scores to create some key space on Cal. Mercep found Carson Kranz on a 6-on-5 to make it 9-8 Trojans, and then Mercep would set up Daube for a hammer blow that got USC ahead 10-8 at 1:52. Porter snubbed the Bears at the other end next, and then Mercep sizzled in his third with 1:10 remaining, punching up an 11-9 advantage that would be dented only by a late Cal goal, which wrapped things up as an 11-9 Trojan victory.

- With 14 saves today, SR Nic Porter recorded his seventh straight game with double-digit saves — 11th overall this season and 35th as a Trojan.
- Porter also took sole possession of No. 4 all-time on USC's career saves list, now with 652.
- With today's hat trick, SR Jacob Mercep now leads USC with 12 multi-goal games this season.
- With two goals today, RS JR Hannes Daube has now scored in 17 of USC's 19 games this season.

USC awaits the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket, to be released later today (Nov. 21) on


[2] USC 11, [1] California 9
Nov. 21, 2021 | Avery Aquatic Center (Stanford, Calif.)
USC   1 - 3 - 3 - 4 = 11
CAL   2 - 1 - 4 - 2 = 9

USC — Jacob Mercep 3, Hannes Daube 2, Joshua Waldoch, Jake Ehrhardt, Max Miller, Ashworth Molthen, Wyatt Barker, Carson Kranz.
CAL — Nikos Delagrammatikas 3, Nikolaos Papanikolaou 2, Roberto Valera 2, Max Casabella, George Avakian.

SAVES: Nic Porter (USC) 14, Adrian Weinberg (CAL) 12.