No. 1 USC men’s water polo stomped all over the Aggie Roundup in Davis, Calif., this past weekend with three dominant wins. The Trojans’ record stands at 7-0 going into this weekend’s MPSF Invitational.
San Jose State came in hot on Friday after last year’s defeat, gaining the upper hand by scoring first. The Trojans came back strong with redshirt junior driver Hannes Daube scoring on a 5-meter penalty shot. The Trojans secured the game in the third period with senior 2-meter Jake Ehrhardt’s fourth goal bringing the Trojans up 7-3. Ehrhardt and Daube both made history with their performances, crossing the 100-goal mark for their careers in a 12-5 victory for USC. This would be the first of multiple dominating performances for the Trojans this weekend.
“Hannes, he is really a weapon, an offensive weapon, a defensive weapon,” head coach Marko Pintaric said of the 2020 Olympian. “He’s still adjusting to our defensive calls. I think down the road, you know, he’s gonna actually show some really great water polo. I’m looking forward to that in him. He had a good output in terms of points.”
The last time No. 14 Santa Clara faced off against USC was during the Aggie Roundup in 2017, when the Trojans left with a blowout 20-3 victory. In the initial two minutes of Saturday’s game, redshirt senior driver Jacob Mercep did the honors of powering the team forward with two goals. After the half, the team came in blazing with six goals in the third period and another six in the fourth to take the game 18-6. This boosted the Trojans to 10-0 in their meetings with the Broncos since 1988.
Following the steamroll over Santa Clara, the Trojans faced No. 8 UC Davis that afternoon. In a series dating back to 1980, USC is now 17-0 all-time against UC Davis, whose head coach Daniel Leyson is a former Trojan. The game was tied 4-4 until Mercep supplied five consecutive goals in the second half, helping bring the team up 12-4. With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Daube delivered the last shot of the game with a bang, leading the Trojans to a 13-7 win.
Senior leadership shone throughout the weekend, especially from Mercep. At the conclusion of the weekend, Mercep ranked sixth all-time in career goals, a spot formerly held by Leyson.
Defensively the team excelled, especially in terms of goaltending. Senior goalie Nic Porter contributed 12 saves against UC Davis, climbing to No. 8 on USC’s all-time saves list with 524 career saves. His successor, redshirt freshman goalie Blake Jackson, had his first game with double-digit saves with 10 against Santa Clara.
“I think both goalies did really good,” Pintaric said when asked about key defensive players. “Considering if you look at our [6-on-5] percentage, we’re keeping our opponent really, below 20%. And this is really, due to [Porter and Jackson] and directing the defense, they both had fair share in their blocking.”
Looking forward to the upcoming weekend, Pintaric discussed what the team needs to work on to face a competitive field at the MPSF Invitational.
“Defense actually functioned well, but offensively, we didn’t put the easy opportunities away,” he said. “It’s all about timing, good setups and good passes. So this is something that I’m taking away from this weekend that we’re going to try to tune up for our incoming week.”
The Trojans will head up to Berkeley for the MPSF Invitational this Friday through Sunday.