The UCSB men’s water polo team lost its second straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game on Saturday to top-ranked USC 12-7.

The loss was the Gauchos’ fourth in their last five games. The team drops to 1-4 in the MPSF and 15-7 overall for the season. The Trojans improve to 21-0 on the year, including 6-0 in conference.

USC began the scoring with 6:48 left in the first quarter with a six-on-five goal from the game’s leading scorer, junior driver Nikola Vavic. Vavic would net another goal in the first quarter and eventually finish the game with three goals.

“I thought we did well offensively as far as moving the ball around against their press defense,” senior goalkeeper and captain Myles Christian said. “Unfortunately, we forced some things, which fed their counter attack, allowing them to score easy goals.”

With 4:49 left in the second quarter, USC’s sophomore driver Kostas Genidounias scored his second goal of the game to push the lead to 4-0. Later in the second quarter, sophomore attacker Eric Van de Mortel got the Gauchos going with his 23th goal on the season. The first half ended at 4-1.

The second half began with two more Trojan goals, making the score 6-1. UCSB then began to cut the lead with goals from junior 2-meter Teddy Zhang and Van de Mortel. Before the third quarter ended, USC tallied another two goals and UCSB’s Zhang scored his second goal of the game, making it 8-4 at the end of the third.

“USC came out strong in the first quarter going up 3-0,” sophomore attacker Derek Shoemaker said. “We played solid in the second and third quarters, matching them goal for goal, but they closed us out early in the fourth quarter.”

In the fourth quarter, the Gauchos were gaining momentum but could not overcome USC’s big lead. After the Trojans scored early in the quarter, Shoemaker scored his first goal of the game. USC then scored another two goals to extend the comfortable lead. UCSB found two late goals from freshman 2-meter Nicholas Jordan and sophomore utility Brendan McElroy, but eventually ran out of time and fell 12-7 to the undefeated Trojans.

Van de Mortel and Zhang led the Gauchos in scoring with two goals each and Christian continued his solid season with 11 saves in the cage.

“In order for us to win games against the top teams, our defense can’t give up 12 goals,” senior utility and captain Brian Shoemaker said. “We just need to focus on the final task at hand, which is the rest of our conference games and [to] finish strong going into the MPSF tournament.”

The Gauchos’ next game will be next Saturday at the University of the Pacific.