No. 3 USC Men’s Water Polo Hosts Two On Thursday, Then Off To Inland Empire Saturday
#3 USC (3-1) vs. #7 Long Beach St. (3-1)
Thursday, Sept. 8 | 5 p.m. | Uytengsu Aquatics Center
STREAM | STATS
#3 USC vs. Golden West (exhibition)
Thursday, Sept. 8 | 6:30 p.m. | Uytengsu Aquatics Center
STREAM | STATS
INLAND EMPIRE CLASSIC — Axelrood Pool (Claremont, Calif.)
TOURNAMENT CENTRAL PAGE
#3 USC at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Saturday, Sept. 10 | 10:30 a.m.
STREAM | STATS
#3 USC vs. Pomona-Pitzer
Saturday, Sept. 10 | 1 p.m.
STREAM | STATS
No. 3 USC sets up for another two days of double duty, starting with the Trojans' first home games of the season. On Thursday (Sept. 8), USC (3-1) hosts No. 7 Long Beach State at 5 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center before a 6:30 p.m. exhibition game against Golden West. After that doubleheader, USC will next head to Claremont, Calif., for action on Saturday (Sept. 10) at the Inland Empire Classic. The Trojans take on host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 10:30 a.m. that day, followed by a 1 p.m. clash against Pomona-Pitzer.
USC started the 2022 season ranked No. 2 in the national preseason poll and No. 3 in the preseason MPSF Coaches Poll. As of the latest set of national rankings (released Sept. 7), USC is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation.
The No. 7 Beach is 3-1 overall after action at the Triton Invitational last weekend, having beaten Westcliff 23-11, UC Santa Barbara 12-11 in OT and UC Irvine 12-6 and falling to UC Davis 13-7. Garrett Zaan leads the Beach in scoring with eight goals to date, and goalie Andrej Bosanac has tallied 37 saves. USC is 74-15 all-time against Long Beach State with wins in the last 34 meetings. Last year, USC beat the Beach 13-9 in Long Beach.
This Thursday's game will be the first action of the season for Golden West. The competition with the Rustlers will not count toward USC's overall record, as they are a junior college team.
The Stags are 1-3 overall after seeing action in the Triton Invitation last weekend, having beaten Redlands 11-7, but falling to No. 2 UCLA 16-3, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara 18-8 and Pomona-Pitzer 10-9. Thomas Walker leads the Stags in scoring with seven goals to date, and goalie Jake Taylor has tallied 29 saves. Last year, USC beat the CMS 6-5 at the Inland Empire Classic.
The Sagehens are 3-1 overall after action at the Triton Invitation last weekend, having beaten La Verne 16-7, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 10-9 and Westcliff 15-13, but falling in the opener to No. 6 UC Davis 16-3. Sam Sasaki and Benjamin Sasaki lead the Sagehens in scoring with six goals apiece to date. The Trojans and Sagehens last met in 2018, with USC winning that matchup 16-1.
USC took second place at the Triton Invitational last week. The Trojans opened 2022 with a bang, handing out a 24-0 win over Concordia — the first shutout by the Trojans since 2018 — with 14 different players getting on the scoresheet while goalies Blake Jackson and Eric Hubner shared the shutout. USC secured its place in the semifinals with a 10-4 win over No. 12 UC Irvine next, and captured a 12-8 victory in the semis vs. No. 10 Pepperdine. That put USC in the title match against No. 3 UCLA, which held off the Trojans in an 8-6 decision. Massimo Di Martire finished as USC's top scorer at the event with nine goals in his Trojan debut, with Marcus Longton next in line with eight goals. Di Martire was one of six Trojans to tally their first career goals at USC during the tournament.
BY THE NUMBERS
One weekend into the season, Massimo Di Martire and Marcus Longton lead USC's scoring charge with nine and eight goals, respectively. On the defensive end, three goalies have shared time in the cage, with redshirt sophomore Blake Jackson and Kyle McKenney logging the majority of the minutes, while redshirt freshman Eric Hubner got his first game experience during USC's shutout win over Concordia. Jackson set his season high with 11 saves in his complete-game stand against UCLA, and McKenney notched his season best with 13 stops against Pepperdine. All told, USC's goalkeeping corps is averaging 11.0 saves per game. As a team, USC has outscored its opponents 52-20 for an average of 13.0 goals per game offensively and 5.0 goals-against per game defensively. The USC defense has held opponents scoreless in five periods, including that complete shutout of Concordia.
ON THE RISE
Now in his fifth season with the Trojans, Jake Ehrhardt continues his climb up the career scoring charts. With his four goals tallied at the Triton Invitational, Ehrhardt moved up to take sole possession of No. 25 all-time, now with 128 career goals.
BACK FOR MORE
Two All-Americans — Jake Ehrhardt and Ashworth Molthen — both return from that 2021 roster, which also featured All-MPSF honoree Carson Kranz. In all, USC's arsenal includes savvy seniors Marcus Longton and Chris Sturtevant. Ehrhardt and Sturtevant serve as USC's team captains, leading a 30-player Trojan roster boasting balance, talent and determination to bring the program its 11th national championship. Last season, Ehrhardt, Molthen, Longton and Kranz all logged at least 20 goals for the Trojan cause, and their firepower will be key to USC's gameplan in 2022. They'll have plenty of support, too. Savvy perimeter scoring prowess also returns in the hands of Sturtevant, Chris Agliozzo, Luka Brnetic, Jake Carter, Tom McGuire and Joshua Waldoch, while the offensive grunt work at two-meters falls largely on the muscle of Max Miller and Tony Nardelli.
Ehrhardt has four seasons of experience with the Trojans, having been a freshman when USC won its most recent NCAA crown in 2018. He also has U.S. National Team experience — although he is not alone. Redshirt senior Molthen also has been a member of Team USA, and junior Kranz represented the United States at the 2021 FINA Junior World Championship. Additionally, three newcomers saw international action at the recent FINA Youth World Championships, where freshmen Evan Ausmus and Bernardo Herzer played for the USA, and freshman Andrej Grgurevic capped up for Australia.
USC's incoming reinforcements are headlined by Italian import Massimo Di Martire, who also has National Team experience and who has joined the Trojans as a grad student. And in addition to Ausmus, Grgurevic and Herzer, USC's true freshmen are primed to shine. Lefties Charlie Saunders and Jack Vort pair well with the two-meter power of Zac Crenshaw. Meanwhile, fans can expect to see more of returners Reed Stemler, Henry Saunders and Aidan Wattson.
Marko Pintaric, who has been part of 14 NCAA championships during his 21 years on the USC coaching staff, is in his fourth year at the helm of the Trojan water polo program. Last season on the men's side, he guided the Trojans to a 17th consecutive NCAA appearance, reaching the NCAA final for the 16th time in that span. Pintaric was named head coach of the USC men's and women's water polo teams on August 29, 2019, replacing former head coach Jovan Vavic. An All-American and 1998 NCAA champion as a player at USC, Pintaric served as co-head coach for the USC men for the past three seasons (2016-18), most recently helping the Trojans to the 2018 NCAA Championship. His USC coaching career began as an assistant coach to both the USC men and women in 2001. Pintaric stayed in a dual coaching role until NCAA rules for coaching staff sizes changed in 2015-16, prompting a move to a scouting director role with the women while his assistant coaching role continued with the men for the next four years.
The 2021 season was a return to normalcy as far as scheduling goes, following a 2020 season affected by coronavirus restrictions. Head coach Marko Pintaric's 2021 Trojans made yet another run to the NCAA final, making it 16 appearances in the title match in the last 17 seasons. USC posted an 18-3 overall record in taking third at the MPSF Tournament and making it through to the NCAA championship, where the Trojans fell 13-12 to Cal. At season's end, USC had six players earn ACWPC All-America honors in First Team picks Hannes Daube, Jacob Mercep and Nic Porter, Third Team honorees Jake Ehrhardt and Ashworth Molthen, and Honorable Mention recipient Wyatt Barker. •