Athletics News

USC Men Win 10th NCAA Championship

Dec. 3, 2018


PALO ALTO, CALIF. — Safe to say, no men’s water polo team has carried a seven-goal lead into the fourth period of an NCAA championship match. But, in its 14th consecutive NCAA final, the USC men’s water polo team made no mistake in establishing its dominance in this one. The Trojans peeled out to a 6-0 lead over host Stanford in the 2018 National Collegiate Championship match and never looked back, even when the Cardinal made a late-game push, and the Trojans emerged victorious with a 14-12 win to claim the 2018 national championship today at Avery Aquatic Center in Palo Alto, Calif. In doing so, USC finishes off its 10th national championship first-ever 30-win season on the men’s side, having gone 30-3 overall in 2018.

It’s the university’s 110th national championship all-time, and also gives USC head coach Jovan Vavic a grand total of 16 national championships while at the helm of the USC men’s and women’s programs. This is the third time that Vavic has guided the USC women and men to national championships in the same calendar year, as this victory follows a title won by the USC women in 2018. USC has done the same in 2010 and 2013.

Already the record-holders for consecutive NCAA finals made, the USC men made certain of locking up victory today. The Trojans had won six straight titles from 2008-13 before faltering in the last four NCAA title matches. After seeing his teams fall in his first three years at Troy, 2018 senior Zach D’Sa finally captained his Trojans to the title. He finishes out his USC career with 98 career goals, joined by Danny Leong as USC’s only seniors on the roster this year.

This NCAA final broke the mold. USC roared to an unheard-of 6-0 lead, pouring out five unanswered goals in the first period of play — two from Jacob Mercep and one each from Sawyer Rhodes, Marin Dasic and Sam Slobodien. Reeling the hosts surrendered a sixth straight when USC goalie Nic Porter hit Mercep for a counterattack strike early in the second. Mercep’s early hat trick made it a 6-0 USC lead, and although Stanford would break its silence a couple minutes later, Mercep delivered the assist to freshman Hannes Daube for a rocket that got USC ahead 7-1. That would hold through to halftime — thanks in part to more stingy defense by the Trojans backed up by Porter in the cage.

In the second half, USC struck again. Mercep, again, had the setup, hitting Marko Vavic for a ripper that got USC a a hearty 8-1 advantage. Stanford would be awarded a 5-meter penalty shot next, and the Cardinal converted for its second goal of the game, only to see Porter hunt down Mercep again. Mercep manufactured another blasing blast to make it 9-2 Trojans. Porter would squash a Stanford 1v1 soon after, and although the Cardinal got another to go, USC responded with back-to-back goals. Slobodien rocked in his second, and later it was Luke Wyatt scoring his first goal of the tourney with a lefty laser that tugged the Trojans ahead by eight, up 11-3. Stanford scored in the final minute of the third, and USC shouldered an 11-4 lead into the fourth period. 

There, Stanford was able to carve down the Trojan lead, outscoring USC 8-3 in those final eight minutes. But a failed 5-meter penalty took the wind out of Cardinal sails, and USC was able to keep Stanford at bay with key goals from Mercep — his fifth — along with Matt Maier and Jake Ehrhardt to lock down an epic and incredible 14-12 USC victory. 

In 14 straight trips to the NCAA final, USC has finished out eight championships to balloon the men’s tally to 10 titles — all under the direction of head coach Jovan Vavic. 

At the end of the event, USC had six players earning All-Tournament honors. Jacob Mercep was named the NCAA Tournament MVP and was joined by Marko Vavic and Hannes Daube on the First Team. On the Second Team, USC had Sam Slobodien, Marin Dasic and Nic Porter. Porter finished out the title match with 12 fantastic saves for the Trojan cause.


[2] USC 14, [1] Stanford 12
Dec. 2, 2018 | Avery Aquatic Center (Palo Alto, Calif.)
USC   5 - 2 - 4 - 3 = 14
STAN  0 - 1 - 3 - 8- = 12
USC — Jacob Mercep 5, Sam Slobodien 2, Sawyer Rhodes, Marin Dasic, Hannes Daube, Marko Vavic, Luke Wyatt, Matt Maier, Jake Ehrhardt.
SAVES: Nic Porter (USC) 12, Oliver Lewis (STAN) 4.



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