2022 USC men’s water polo season outlook: No. 2 Trojans look to return to NCAA title game
Men’s Water Polo | September 01, 2022
After a productive business trip to Europe, the USC men’s water polo team is ready to clock in for work at the home office. In July, the Trojans traveled to Europe for a competition-filled team training trip. Additionally, the company provided the seven USC newcomers with valuable hours alongside the returning Trojans, building chemistry and experience for sure to give the head coach Marco PintaricThe 2022 squad is a solid foundation for the upcoming season.
“It was super valuable in terms of experience,” Pintaric said of the trip, which took the Trojans through Spain and Croatia. “We played about 15 games, and the most important thing is that our newcomers had the chance to play together, work on the fundamentals of our system and develop our team chemistry. Usually it takes all the year.”
As NCAA finalists last season, this year’s Trojans open the 2022 campaign ranked second in the nation. USC went 18-3 overall in this title game chase — the program’s 15th Finals appearance in its 16 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. Two All Americans — Jake Ehrhardt and Ashworth Molthen – both return from this 2021 list, which also included the All-MPSF winner Carson Kranz. In total, USC’s arsenal includes savvy seniors Marcus Longton and Chris Sturtevant. Ehrhardt and Sturtevant are the captains of the USC team, leading a 30-man Trojan roster with poise, skill and determination to bring the program its 11th national championship.
“Every year our ultimate goal is to win the national championship,” Pintaric said. “The strength of our team that I notice is our team chemistry and leadership. Our seniors in particular know the system and they’ve been in the NCAA tournament every year, so they teach new players what it takes.”
Ehrhardt has four seasons of experience with the Trojans, having been a freshman when USC won their last NCAA crown in 2018. He also has experience with the US national team – although he is not only. Redshirt senior Molthen was also a member of Team USA, and junior Kranz represented the USA at the 2021 FINA Junior World Championships. Additionally, three newcomers saw international action at the recent Junior World Championships of FINA, where first-year students Evan Ausmus and Bernardo Herzer played for the United States, and freshman Andrej Grgurevic capped for Australia.
Last season, Ehrhardt, Molthen, Longton and Kranz all scored at least 20 goals for the Trojans cause, and their firepower will be key to USC’s game plan in 2022. They’ll also have plenty of support. Savvy perimeter scoring prowess also comes in the hands of Sturtevant, Chris Agliozzo, Luka Brnetic, Jake Carter, Tom McGuire and Joshua Waldochwhile the attacking grunt work from two yards falls largely on the muscle of Max Miller and Tony Nardelli.
USC Incoming Reinforcements Featured by Italian Import Massimo DiMartire, who also has national team experience and joined the Trojans as a graduate student. And in addition to Ausmus, Grgurevic and Herzer, real USC freshmen are ready to shine. Lefties Charlie Saunders and Jack Vort goes well with the power of two meters of Zac Crenshaw. Meanwhile, fans can expect to see more returns. Reed Stemler, Henry Saunders and Aidan Wattson.
Not to be missed is the depth of USC between the pipes. Goalkeepers Blake Jackson, Kyle McKenney and Garrett Allen every minute saved last year and stands to provide a solid defensive backbone rotation with the redshirt freshman Eric Hubner and real freshman Herzer.
“I’m very confident in our group of goaltenders,” Pintaric said. “They work hard, and the defense in front of them works hard to protect them too. Offensively we have southpaws, guards who can shoot and great shooters all around. Our post-up game is also strong. We have eight guys who can come in and post. Our offense seems consistent and I’m excited for this season to start.
USC’s 2022 campaign begins this weekend with a trip to San Diego for the Triton Invitational. The Trojans will kick off the tournament on Saturday, Sept. 2 with an opener against Concordia at 9:20 a.m. at UC San Diego’s Canyonview Aquatic Center. At 3 p.m. that afternoon, USC will face either UC Irvine or Redlands. Sunday (September 3), the semi-finals and placement matches are on the agenda. To follow, visit the center page of the Triton Invitational.