Courtesy: USC Athletics
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — The No. 3 USC men’s water polo team trailed No. 4 Stanford by three goals in the fourth period before making a comeback that forced overtime in the third-place game of the Overnght/MPSF Invitational. With just one second to go in OT, USC freshman Zach Bettino hammered home his fourth goal of the game to net the winner for the Trojans in a 13-12 win over the Cardinal. USC improves to 9-2 overall with the comeback victory.
The third-place battle featured shifting momentum with eight ties and six lead changes as the Trojans and the Cardinal fought for an upper hand. In the third frame, USC rattled off a run to turn a 6-5 halftime deficit into an 8-6 advantage. Luka Brnetic lit the fuse with his goal just before halftime, and then Max Miller sandwiched two huge goals around a strike from teammate Andrej Grgurevic to lift the Trojans ahead by two. Stanford struck back, however, finishing off back-to-back power plays to level it and spark what would grow to a five-goal Cardinal rally.
That had the Trojans in an 11-8 hold with 5:23 left in regulation, prompting the hosts to dig deep to defend home waters. Freshman Bettino set a new career high for himself when he delivered his third goal of the game at 5:04. He’d find Carson Kranz a minute later for a booming blast that got USC one back. Plagued by early exclusions, Massimo Di Martire got back in gear, finishing off a 6-on5 earned by Miller with a rocket strike that knotted the game at 11-11 with 1:51 on the clock. Defenses would hold, thanks in large part to some big stops from USC goalie Eric Hubner, and it was on to overtime.
More work from Miller at set got the Trojans up on another power play — this one also topped off by Di Martire to net a 12-11 lead for USC. The Cardinal countered with a power play scored of its own just 20 seconds later to make it 12-12. In the next portion of OT, an enormous Hubner save squashed a Stanford 6-on-5 to keep things even. USC would set up later for a final look to win it, going on the attack with seven ticks to go. On the possession, sophomore Jack Vort found Bettino for a bold blast that ripped its way to the back of the net to tally a 13-12 lead with barely a second remaining. The clock would expire quickly on Stanford, and USC emerged victorious in its first overtime game of the year to take third place at the event.
USC stays home next weekend to host Pacific in a nonconference clash at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 1) at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
– With his game-high four goals today, FR Zach Bettino set a new career high.
– GS Massimo Di Martire and SR Max Miller continue to lead the team in multiple-goal games with seven apiece and with goals in 10 different games this season.
– With three goals today, Di Martire leads USC in scoring with 22 goals so far this season.
– Hubner’s 10 saves vs. Stanford marked his second double-digit save outing of the season — both during the Overnght/MPSF Invite.
– USC is now 75-64 all-time against Stanford with wins in the past five meetings.
– This was USC’s first overtime game of the season.
2023 Overnght/MPSF Invitational
#3 USC 13, #4 Stanford 12 (OT)
Sept. 24, 2023 | Uytengsu Aquatics Center (Los Angeles, Calif.)
USC 2 – 3 – 3 – 3 — 1 – 1 = 13
STAN 2 – 4 – 3 – 2 — 1 – 0 = 12
USC — Zach Bettino 4, Massimo Di Martire 3, Max Miller 2, Tom McGuire, Luka Brnetic, Andrej Grgurevic, Carson Kranz.
STAN — Ethan Parrish 3, Jackson Painter 3, Soren Jensen 2, Jack Merrill, Grant Watson, Riley Pittman.
SAVES: Eric Hubner (USC) 10, Griffen Price (STAN) 4.