No. 3 USC Men’s Water Polo Skips Town For Action At Pacific And UC Davis
AGGIE ROUNDUP — Schaal Aquatics Center (Davis, Calif.)
#3 USC at #6 UC Davis
Saturday, Sept. 17 | 9:15 a.m.
Series Record: USC leads 19-0
Last Meeting: USC 13, UCD 8 (Sept. 25, 2021)
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#3 USC vs. #20 Navy
Saturday, Sept. 17 | 1 p.m.
Series Record: USC leads 12-0
Last Meeting: USC 15, NAVY 6 (Sept. 18, 2010)
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No. 3 USC gets back on the road this week with a run through Northern California to take on a trio of foes. On Friday (Sept. 15), the Trojans (6-1) pay a visit to No. 5 Pacific (5-1) for a 5:30 p.m. clash in Stockton. From there, USC heads over to Davis for competition on Saturday (Sept. 17) at the Aggie Roundup. There, the Trojans first face host No. 6 UC Davis (4-1) in a 9:15 a.m. meeting before taking on Navy (4-3) at 1 p.m. that afternoon.
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.
Last week, USC chalked up three wins, beating No. 7 Long Beach State 14-10 in overtime at Uytengsu Aquatics Center in the Trojans' home opener before collecting a 21-12 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and a 19-8 victory over Pomona-Pitzer at the Inland Empire Classic to improve to 6-1 overall. In an unpredictable battle with the Beach, USC saw a four-goal lead melt away as the Trojans had to dig out a late goal from Massimo Di Martire to force overtime against the Beach. In that OT stretch, USC took back control. Jake Ehrhardt walked in and sailed the go-ahead score to the corner for the first strike to make it 10-9. He'd find Ashworth Molthen with 57 seconds on the clock to nudge USC ahead 11-9, although Long Beach State answered and had it at 11-10 to close out the first overtime frame. In the final three minutes, it was all Di Martire, who tallied three unanswered goals all his own to close things down on the dramatic 14-10 USC victory over the Beach. Di Martire's six goals set a career high for the newcomer, while goalie Blake Jackson notched a career-high 13 saves in the win. On Saturday in Claremont, Trojans tallied 13 different scorers in their 21-12 win over host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps before upping that to 14 scorers as USC wrapped the day with a 19-8 win over Pomona-Pitzer. Molthen led the Trojans with a hat trick in each game at the Inland Empire Classic, while Marcus Longton extended his scoring streak to seven straight games with at least one goal tallied.
BY THE NUMBERS
Now two weeks into the season, Massimo Di Martire leads USC's scoring charge with 16 goals, followed by 12 apiece from Marcus Longton and Ashworth Molthen and 10 from Jake Ehrhardt. On the defensive end, four goalies have seen time in the cage, with redshirt sophomore Blake Jackson and Kyle McKenney logging the majority of the minutes. Both have recorded two double-digit saves outings apiece, with Jackson hauling in a career-high in USC's OT win over Long Beach State. That matched McKenney's season-high 13-save effort vs. Pepperdine a week earlier. All told, USC's goalkeeping corps is averaging 11.0 saves per game. As a team, USC has outscored its opponents 106-50 for an average of 15.1 goals per game offensively and 7.1 goals-against per game defensively. The USC defense has held opponents scoreless in seven periods, including that complete shutout of Concordia, which was shared by Jackson and redshirt freshman Eric Hubner on Sept. 3.
MASSIMO MAKES HIS MARK
After a dramatic victory in its home opener last week, the USC boasted the MPSF Newcomer of the Week award-winner in Massimo Di Martire. The Italian newcomer was the driving force in USC's overtime win over Long Beach State, and he had a key hand in two more Trojan victories over the weekend to help his cause in claiming his first collegiate award from the MPSF. Di Martire set his career high with a six-goal outburst in USC's 14-10 overtime win over No. 7 Long Beach State. It was the most goals scored by a Trojan in a single game so far this season. His third goal of the day was the score that forced overtime, where he'd add three more goals for USC as the Trojans took control in OT. Di Martire also tallied four steals and had an assist in the comeback win over the Beach. The next day at the Inland Empire Classic, Di Martire had four assists in a 21-12 win at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and then had a goal and three assists in USC's 19-8 win over Pomona-Pitzer. A grad student in his first season at USC, Di Martire is the first Trojan to earn a weekly award from the MPSF this season.
ON THE RISE
Now in his fifth season with the Trojans, Jake Ehrhardt continues his climb up the career scoring charts. With six goals tallied last week, Ehrhardt has moved up to rank tied at No. 20 all-time, now with 134 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. •