Men’s Water Polo Sunk by Trojans
No. 1-ranked University of Southern California demonstrated its undeniable presence by controlling every aspect of the game in the Trojans’ 16-6 victory over the Anteaters in a conference game Saturday afternoon at the Crawford pool.
USC was quick to strike, scoring twice in the first minute of the game. Irvine scored in the first period to cut the Trojans lead in half, but the Anteaters were unable to keep up with USC’s growing lead that stood at 5-1 at the end of the first period.
Irvine, now 7-14 overall and 1-3 in conference play, was led by sophomore driver Cole Bielskis, who had two goals in the game. Senior driver Curt Merlo, junior driver Colin Mello, sophomore driver Taylor Wells and freshman driver Kyle Baxter all added one goal apiece for the Anteaters. Throughout the game, USC was quick on defense, maintaining excellent player coverage. The Trojans’ pressure made it difficult for the Anteater offense, which was often pressed to throw the ball away as the shot clock wound down with no opportunity to score.
Defensively, Irvine struggled to contain the Trojans who outmaneuvered the Anteaters with their speed. USC broke through the Irvine defense with many of their goals coming well within the five-meter line. Despite USC’s dominance, Anteater junior goalkeeper Matt Garcia, who was often left to tend to the defense alone, did a solid job protecting the net with eight saves.
Trojan driver Juan Delgadillo dominated most of the match, leading USC with six goals, with teammate Thomas Hale scoring five goals. Six other Trojans combined for the rest of USC’s scoring. The prolific Trojans have outscored their opponents 236-106 this year during their 18-0 season that has contributed to a 37-game winning streak dating back to the 2005 season.
It was evident early in the game that the Trojans would prove victorious as they kept the Anteaters out of reach of a possible comeback. At halftime, USC held a 9-2 advantage that was extended to an insurmountable 13-4 lead at the end of the third period. The Trojan defense, considered the best in the nation, was commanding. Their three goalkeepers combined for 12 saves, led by Adam Shilling with nine.
During the fourth period, the USC offense was better contained by the Anteaters, who limited them to three goals. The Trojan defense seemed to slow down, allowing consecutive goals by Irvine. An open Trojan net in the final three minutes also showed vulnerability, but the Anteaters were unable to capitalize on the opportunity and the single shot by Irvine fell short of the goal line. The Anteaters gained their momentum too late and their attack was stopped by the end of regulation, handing them the loss.
After Saturday’s game, it is almost too easy to say that USC is well on its way to claiming the NCAA National Title for the second year in a row. The final minutes proved that perhaps the Trojans do have an Achilles heel, yet with a lead like theirs, the slowing of the Trojans’ attack may be nothing more than the confidence of what was a 12-point lead.
The men’s team will host its final regular season home games this week, beginning with a match-up against Long Beach State Thursday, Nov. 2.