Sept. 30, 1997
Trojans Prepare for Friday Matchup Vs. UCLA
THIS WEEK - The USC men's water polo team (6-2 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) meets crosstown rival UCLA on Friday (Oct. 3) at 4 p.m. at the Bruins' Sunset Recreation Center in an MPSF contest.
NEWS & NOTES - The Trojans are off to a good start, including a second-place finish at their own Southern California Tournament, despite missing four likely starters from the lineup and having only one returning starter. Those injured are: Luke Daniels (wrist), Mateo Juric (wrist), Bjorn Nordstrom (Mormon mission) and Stever O'Rourke (broken arm). As a two-time third team All-American who scored 47 points in 1996, Juric has been the player most missed ... USC will look to avoid starting a conference season at 0-2 for the first time since 1991.
RANKINGS - USC was ranked No. 2 and UCLA was No. 6 in the Sept. 23 American Water Polo Coaches Association Top 20 Poll.
OPPONENT - UCLA (5-2, 1-0 — plays Long Beach State on Tuesday, Sept. 30) is led by freshman 2-meter man Sean Kern's 14 points. The Trojans will be looking for revenge as the Bruins defeated the Trojans, 8-7, for the NCAA title last December. The two teams have been closely matched over the years, with the Trojans holding a 30-27-1 edge since 1979.
LAST WEEK - The Trojans hammered UC Davis, 15-4, on Friday (Sept. 26) at Solano Community College, but lost to California, 9-8, on Saturday (Sept. 27) at Diablo Valley College in their MPSF opener. Marko Pintaric scored five goals against the Aggies, while Allen Basso led with three points against the Golden Bears. The Trojans rallied from three goals down in the fourth quarter against Cal to tie the match, but the Bears got the game-winner with 1:19 left in the game.
JOHN WILLIAMS & JOVAN VAVIC - Co-head coaches John Williams and Jovan Vavic shared MPSF Coach of the Year honors in 1996 after leading USC to the conference championship as well as an overall record of 23-3 and a second-place national finish. Williams, a former USC All-American, entered his 25th year as head coach of the Trojans with a record of 403-243-7 (.623). Vavic was promoted to co-head coach prior to 1995, and in the last two seasons, USC went 43-8 (.843).
MARKO PINTARIC - USC's newest addition from Croatia, junior driver Marko Pintaric has had little trouble adjusting to collegiate water polo. Through eight games, he's been the Trojans' leading scorer with 22 goals and 23 points. He scored five goals against UC Davis (Sept. 26) and five points against Long Beach State (Sept. 16). Pintaric was named to the All-Southern California Tournament first team after leading the Trojans in scoring with nine goals. Pintaric is a former member of the Croatian Junior National team.
SIMUN CIMERMAN - A second team All-American in 1996 and an honorable mention All-American in 1995, Simun Cimerman will be in line for first team honors with another strong campaign in 1997. The senior driver, who has one of the best shots in the NCAA, has scored 13 points so far. He was named to the All-Southern California Tournament first team. A native of Zagreb, Croatia, he has also played on the Croatian Junior National team.
JAMES CASTLE - A starter on the U.S. Junior National Team the last two years, sophomore James Castle (Hacienda Heights, Wilson HS) will be one of USC's standouts in 1997. He's off to a great start with 16 points, including a career-high four goals against UC Davis (Sept. 26). In fact, Castle only scored 17 points as a 1996 freshman. He was named to the All-Southern California Tournament second team.
COACH VAVIC SAYS - "We are a young team and this is all still a learning experience for us. Our players did a great job up at Cal under the circumstances. It's tough to play up there, but we fought hard and came very close to upsetting them. There's not much that needs to be said about UCLA. It's one of those games that can make or break a season. It's a crucial game because it's a conference game and we can be 1-1 or 0-2."