#2 USC, #4 Pepperdine Advance to NCAA Semifinals with Thursday Victories

#2 USC and #4 Pepperdine punched their tickets to the NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championships semifinals with victories in Stockton, California, on Thursday.

The Trojans defeated #10 Bucknell 15-9, while the Waves bested #9 UC Davis 15-12 at Chris Kjeldsen Pool in Thursday’s quarterfinal matches.

USC advances to face #1 Stanford at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, while Pepperdine will take on #5 Pacific at 10 p.m. ET.

The winners of the semifinal matches will meet for the NCAA title at 6 p.m. Sunday.

NCAA Championships (Stockton, California)
Nov. 30 #12 Bucknell def. #9 Harvard 13-12
Dec. 5 #2 USC def. #10 Bucknell 15-9 4 p.m. Watch Live Stats
#4 Pepperdine def. #9 UC Davis 15-12 5:45 p.m. Watch Live Stats
Dec. 7 Semifinal 1: #USC vs. #1 Stanford 8 p.m. NCAA.com Live Stats
Semifinal 2: #4 Pepperdine vs. #5 Pacific 10 p.m. NCAA.com Live Stats
Dec. 9 Championship: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 6 p.m. NCAA.com Live Stats

NCAA Quarterfinals – Bucknell vs. USC – 4 p.m. ET, Dec. 5

Live Stats | Live Video

USC earned a spot in the NCAA Semifinals with a 15-9 win over Bucknell on Thursday. The Trojans will face #1 Stanford in a rematch of the 2018 championship match, which USC won 14-12.

Ten different USC players scored in the game as Jacob Mercep and Sam Slobodien logged hat tricks to pace the team. Three Bucknell players – Logan Schofield, Rade Joksimovic and Andu Vlasceanu – put in two goals apiece – to lead six scorers.

Nic Porter made nine saves over the first three periods for the Trojans, while Vaios Vlahotasios wrapped up the game with three stops in the fourth period. Adrien Touzot made six saves for Bucknell.

Bucknell boasted a 3-2 lead after eight minutes with scores from Schofield (powerplay 3:58, powerplay 1:49) and Vlasceanu (0:22).

USC surged into the lead with four goals in the second quarter, while keeping the Bison off the scoreboard in the stanza. A penalty shot by Mercep knotted the score at 3-all just 23 seconds into the period. Slobodien followed less than a minute later (6:43), putting USC in the lead for good (4-3). A powerplay goal by Hannes Daube (1:43) and a score by Marin Dasic (0:45) gave the Trojans a commanding 6-3 advantage at halftime.

Marcus Longston put USC up 7-3 with 5:24 to go in the third quarter. Cooper Dolan provided an answer for Bucknell with an even strength goal at the 4:20 mark. Mercep added a powerplay (2:52) and Slobodien (1:04) and Luka Karaman (0:28) pushed the lead to six at 10-4 (9-4).

The Trojans scored first in the fourth quarter as Slobodien found the back of the net just 26 seconds into the period (7:34). Bucknell countered with a penalty score by Joksimovic just 12 seconds later (7:22) and were within five at 11-6 as Vlasceanu scored at the 5:56 mark. A pair of goals by Matt Maier (5:35, 4:42) made it 13-6 USC.

The back and forth battle continued with a Cullen Jacuzzi penalty (4:31) and another Joksimovic score (3:03) to pull Bucknell back within five (13-8). With two minutes left, USC poured in two more goals to put the game out of reach: Corey Allen (1:54) and James Kolenda (1:10).

Bucknell ended the game and its season with one final score with one second remaining in regulation care of Niki De La Sierra.

This marks USC’s 15th straight NCAA semifinal appearance dating to 2005. In that span, the Trojans have won eight titles (2005, 2008-2013, 2018) and been the national runnerup six times.

NCAA Quarterfinals – UC Davis vs. Pepperdine – 5:45 p.m. ET, Dec. 5

Live Stats | Live Video

A five-goal second quarter helped Pepperdine break away en route to an 8-5 halftime lead and a 15-12 victory over UC Davis in the second NCAA quarterfinal on Thursday.

Seven players found the back of the net for the Waves, including a six-goal effort by Chris Dilworth and a four-goal outing by Balazs Kosa. Nir Gross put in four goals and Holden Tamblyn added a hat trick to lead five Aggie scorers.

In the net, John Claude Maro made eight saves for Pepperdine, while Jonah Addington notched seven stops for UC Davis.

Pepperdine scored first as Dilworth notched a goal just 25 seconds into the game (7:35). UC Davis answered with two goals: Tamblyn (6:59) and Gross (5:18). The Waves registered two scores in the final two minutes of the opening stanza to surge ahead 3-2. Kaden Kaneko (1:57) and Kosa (1:05) put Pepperdine on top.

Dilworth made it 4-2 at the 6:13 mark of the second period, but Jack Stafford (5:40), Gross (4:54) and Tamblyn (4:12) gave the Aggies a 5-4 lead. Curtis Jarvis (3:11), Kosa (powerplay, 2:19) and Sean Thomas (1:03) gave the Waves a three-goal edge. Kosa netted a penalty shot with one second remaining to cap a 4-0 run and put Pepperdine up 8-5 at halftime.

UC Davis was within two less than a minute into the third quarter thanks to a Gross goal (7:09). Kosa scored on a powerplay (6:20) only to see Tamblyn respond 11 seconds later (6:09) and Eric Martel make it a one score affair at the 5:16 mark.

Pepperdine used a 3-0 run featuring goals by Dilworth (5:00, powerplay 1:47) and Marko Asic (4:32) to vault ahead 12-8. Yurri Hanley made good on a powerplay with 24 ticks left in the period to give UC Davis hope of a comeback.

Gross capitalized on another powerplay opportunity with 6:36 left in the game. Jack Stafford buried a penalty try (5:55)  and Hanley added another powerplay goal (4:25) to pull the Aggies even at 12.

It was all Pepperdine from there as Dilworth (4:11, 0:18) and Sean Ferrari (powerplay 2:00) put the icing on the victory. UC Davis hit the post as the game came to a close.

The victory puts Pepperdine into the NCAA semifinals for the first time since winning the NCAA title in 1997 and the ninth time overall.


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