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No. 3 USC Men’s Water Polo Breaks The Bruins With 12-11 Win In MPSF Semis

Nov 19, 2022

LOS ANGELES — The No. 3 USC men's water polo team constructed a sizable lead over No. 2 UCLA and successfully fended off the Bruins' efforts to battle back as the Trojans captured a key 12-11 win in today's MPSF semifinal at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The Trojans are now 17-6 overall and carry a perfect 6-0 home record into tomorrow's MPSF championship matchup against No. 4 Stanford to fight for an automatic berth into the coming NCAA Tournament. 

Every goal proved crucial for the Trojans owing to the Bruins' late-game push. Still, the big numbers came from Carson Kranz and Jake Ehrhardt, who fired in three goals apiece for the Trojan cause. Tony Nardelli's second goal of the game notched USC's all-important 12th, as Nardelli's tip-in was followed by three UCLA goals to carve the margin to one. Key saves from USC goalie Kyle McKenney squashed a couple late looks by the Bruins, as McKenney finished with eight saves for USC.

USC jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and the Trojans would wind up leading the game wire-to-wire. That's not to say it wasn't interesting. UCLA was within one goal four minutes into the game and with 6 seconds left in the game, and there was plenty of intrigue in between. UCLA earned 14 exclusions in the game while getting tagged for exclusions of its own only five times. Still, USC was effectively finding impressive goals without a man advantage. Jake Ehrhardt sizzled in back-to-back goals around a USC defensive takeaway to turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 USC advantage in the first. Carson Kranz also hammered home two goal in the first, and USC was up 5-2 entering the second. Kranz' hat trick was in place by halftime as his cross cage blast got USC up 8-3 for halftime. 

UCLA showed some life in the third, edging it to 8-5 before the Trojans rattled off three in a row on rippers from Tony Nardelli, Max Miller and Ehrhardt to get back ahead by five at 11-6 with a minute on the clock. A buzzer-beater from the Bruins made it 11-7 entering the fourth. That's where Nardelli's fine finish on a 6-on-5 series that connected Marcus Longton to Massimo Di Martire to Nardelli for a tip-in to go that would stand as the winner. The strike had USC up 12-8 with 5:35 remaining in regulation. McKenney made saves against two UCLA power plays in a two-minute span, although UCLA got even scores to go along the way to a 12-10 margin entering the final two minutes. USC made good use of its possession time leaving the Bruins without a lot of room to work. UCLA managed to make it 12-11 with six seconds left, and the Trojans held tight to the ball to put the finishing touches on the crucial MPSF semifinal win.

USC now takes aim at an automatic NCAA berth as the Trojans move into the MPSF Championship match against Stanford at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Nov. 20) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

- USC snapped a four-game losing skid against the Bruins with today's 12-11 MPSF Semifinal victory.
- USC is now 77-67-1 all-time against UCLA in a series dating back to 1979.
- USC is 11-4 in MPSF Tournament finals (USC has won the last four MPSF finals reached).
- With a goal today, Ashworth Molthen has scored in 10 consecutive games.
- With three goals today, Jake Ehrhardt leads the Trojans with 16 multiple-goal games this season.
- With a goal today, Marcus Longton leads the team in having scored in 21 games this season.
- Carson Kranz recorded his second hat trick of the season with his three goals today (last at Pepperdine).
- Kranz also tied his career high with his three goals today.
- USC is 6-0 at home this season, with eight straight wins at Uytengsu Aquatics center since 2021.

#3 USC 12, #2 UCLA 11
Nov. 19, 2022 | Uytengsu Aquatics Center (Los Angeles, Calif.)
USC    5 - 3 - 3 - 1 = 12
UCLA  2 - 1 - 4 - 4 = 11

USC —  Carson Kranz 3, Jake Ehrhardt 3, Tony Nardelli 2, Ashworth Molthen, Massimo Di Martire, Max Miller, Marcus Longton.
UCLA — Tommy Gruwell 3, Gianpiero Di Martire 3, Jake Cavano 2, Chase Dodd, Giorgio Allessandria, Gabe Discipulo.

SAVES: Kyle McKenney (USC) 8, Bernardo Maurizi (UCLA) 7.