Men’s water polo finishes regular season with win

first_imgWhen junior driver Peter Kurzeka recorded his 29th goal of the season on a shot that sailed past UC Irvine goalie Matt Johnson midway through the second quarter at Anteater Pool on Saturday, his coach resisted the urge to grin.For the score · Junior driver Peter Kurzeka was one of four Trojans to score two goals Saturday against UC Irvine. Overall, seven players scored for USC and goalkeeper Joel Dennerley notched 12 saves. – Katelynn Whitaker | Daily Trojan Kurzeka’s shot gave USC a comfortable 7-2 first-half lead, but instead of issuing a congratulatory message, USC coach Jovan Vavic remained emphatic about his young team maintaining its five-goal margin.“It was very important for us to get off to a quick start,” Vavic said. “We never wanted Irvine to be close to us in the fourth quarter because they’re all the more dangerous at home.”Vavic’s demands were met as the No. 2 USC men’s water polo team (23-2, 6-2) defeated No. 6 UC Irvine (16-7, 4-4) by a six-goal margin, 11-5, as Kurzeka, along with freshman driver Nikola Vavic, redshirt sophomore driver Michael Rosenthal and sophomore utility Mace Rapsey, each recorded a pair of goals on the afternoon. It was a balanced effort in the team’s regular season finale that allowed the Trojans to stave off a second-half run by the Anteaters.“We really don’t rely on one person, and that’s the strength of our team,” Vavic said. “We really have so many guys who can score.”And the numbers prove it.So far in 2010, the Trojans have watched eight of their players record at least 20 goals, a remarkably balanced attack for a team that continues to average at least 13 goals per contest. Predictably, Saturday’s showing was no different.“Offensively we did a good job,” Vavic said. “We scored on quite a few six-on-fives, and overall we did a good job. Eleven goals is a very good offensive performance. Any time you get at least eight or nine goals, that’s good.”And with the postseason set to begin in less than a week, the Trojans received uplifting performances from some of their older, more experienced players.Both Kurzeka and Rosenthal have been members of the Trojans’ last two national championship teams, which combined for a total of just two losses in two seasons.“It’s really important for our leaders to play well because our team feeds off of them,” Vavic said.But if the first half belonged to the offense, credit the defense for a similarly strong performance in the second half.Despite a pair of five-meter penalty shots from UC Irvine, which had only lost at home once in 2010, the Trojan defense, anchored by junior goalie Joel Dennerley, surrendered just three second-half goals.Dennerley has been in goal for both of USC’s NCAA championship seasons in 2008 and 2009, yet Vavic said he is ahead of where he was in seasons prior in terms of ability and experience.“Joel is more mature,” Vavic said. “He has played well in every big game for us. I think that Joel, with every game, brings a whole lot to our defense. I’ve always seen him play well in big games. He really doesn’t make mistakes.”And with the Trojans’ upcoming slate of games, he won’t be afforded an opportunity to do so.Coupled with No. 1 California’s 9-6 win over No. 5 Stanford, USC sewed up the second seed in next week’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., with a matchup against No. 7-seed UC Santa Barbara on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.“There are no easy games,” Vavic said. “I’ve never been a part of a season in which so many teams are equally matched. I think everybody is dangerous, and you can’t relax.”last_img

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