The top-ranked Stanford men's water polo team worked hard to get into a position of strength for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, which the Cardinal hosts, earning the No. 1 seed and setting itself up for a chance at the title.
USC cannon-balled Stanford's effort, surprising Stanford, 10-5, in a first-round game Friday. The Trojans improved to 3-0 against Stanford this year.
Stanford (19-4) came back to beat Penn State Behrend, 15-0, later Friday.
Friday's contest played out much different from the first two meetings. USC won 8-6 on Sept. 8 and 11-10 on Sept. 23, with both of those matches being played in Los Angeles.
USC quickly set the tone, moving in front 3-0 following the second of two goals from Mihajlo Milicevic. Stanford finally broke through with just over one minute left in the first period, thanks to Cody Smith's 33rd goal of the season.
The Cardinal crept to within one goal twice in the second period, with tallies from Ben Hallock and Sam Pfeil cutting the lead to 3-2 and 4-3, respectively. The Trojans closed out the period with back-to-back goals from Zach D'Sa, taking a 6-3 lead into intermission.
USC completely seized control in the third period, scoring twice to build an 8-3 advantage.
Trailing 10-3 in the fourth quarter, Stanford scored twice in the final two minutes of regulation, as Reid Chase and Connor Stapleton found the net.