Men's Water Polo, Sports

Defending champions handle No. 9 49ers

Long Beach State’s men’s water polo team was handed its first loss of the season Saturday, as No. 4 USC defeated the No. 9 49ers, 16-4, at McDonald’s Swim Stadium.

The game was officially listed as a nonconference affair and will not count toward the teams’ Mountain Pacific Sports Federation records.

LBSU (2-1) was shorthanded against the Trojans, dressing just 14 players due to injuries to Shane Luth, Carter Taylor and Nathan McConnell.

The two-time defending champion Trojans (3-0) looked solid in their execution, despite a young squad.

“Last year was very difficult trying to defend our championship because everyone was gunning for us,” USC head coach Jovan Vavic said. “This year we are the underdog and we’re having a lot of fun.”

USC is ranked behind California, UCLA and Stanford.

The Trojans were equally as successful at exploiting the 49ers defense in the teams’ second meeting in a week. LBSU dropped a 13-2 decision in a scrimmage at the UC Irvine Invitational the previous weekend.

Midway through the first quarter, it became evident that fatigue would be a big test for the Beach.

LBSU head coach Gavin Arroyo was limited in his ability to keep fully energized players in the water because of the injuries.

Meanwhile, USC was able to substitute all six players at once. With a fresh team of swimmers in the water, the Trojans methodically picked apart the 49ers’ defense to take a 7-1 lead at the end of one quarter.

“It’s tough for us to substitute 6-for-6 right now because we have a smaller traveling lineup and we have some players that are relatively inexperienced,” LBSU assistant coach Kyle Gorham said.

USC goalkeeper Joel Dennerley kept the momentum going for the Trojans in the second quarter. The All-American amassed three saves in the quarter and seven for the game.

Freshman Nick Rascon fired the lone shot to beat Dennerley in the second quarter. At halftime, the 49ers were trailing, 11-2.

The 49ers had little success against the Trojans’ second goalkeeper of the day. Rascon tallied the only goal for the 49ers against USC’s Will Simon on six shots in the second half.

LBSU goalkeepers Matthew Kubeck and Robbie Poynton recorded four saves on 20 shots in the loss.

The Beach will travel north for a two-day tournament hosted by No. 1 California starting next Saturday. Matchups and start times have yet to be announced.

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