Nov. 18, 1997
Trojans Close Out Regular Season vs. UCLA
THIS WEEK - The USC men's water polo team (16-6 overall, 5-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for fourth place), closes out the regular season against crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday (Nov. 22) at 10 a.m., 2 1/2 hours before the football game between the two schools. The Trojans and the Bruins will meet again six days later in the first round of the MPSF Tournament on Nov. 28.
RANKINGS - USC was ranked No. 3 in the Nov. 11 American Water Polo Coaches Association Top 20 Poll, while UCLA was No. 5.
LAST WEEK - The Trojans bested No. 7 Pacific in their final MPSF game of the season, 10-5, on Saturday in Stockton, but then fell to No. 2 Stanford, 9-5, on Sunday in Palo Alto in a non-conference game. James Castle and Allen Basso each had two goals against the Tigers. Five different Trojans scored as USC and Stanford went to the fourth quarter tied, 5-5, but the Cardinal outscored the Trojans, 4-0, in the final period.
OPPONENT - UCLA (13-9, 4-4 in the MPSF for fifth place) is led by freshmen Sean Kern's 33 points. The Trojans have already defeated the Bruins twice this season, the most recent victory coming in the second round of the Nor-Cal Tournament. Marko Pintaric scored five points in an 11-9 overtime win. Since 1979, the Trojans lead the series, 32-27-1.
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. He is the Trojans' leading scorer with 49 goals and 52 points. He was named MPSF Player of the Week on Oct. 5 after scoring five points in a win against UCLA (Oct. 3). Pintaric was named to the All-So-Cal Tournament first team after leading the Trojans in scoring with nine goals. He also led the Trojans in scoring at the Nor-Cal Tournament with 13 points.
MATEO JURIC - After missing the first eight games with a wrist injury, senior driver Mateo Juric came back at the top of his game. He scored nine points at the Nor-Cal Tournament, including the game-winner against Stanford in the championship, and five points in a win against UC Irvine (Oct. 26). He has a total of 25 points. Juric is a two-time third team All-American.
SIMUN CIMERMAN - A second team All-American in 1996 and an honorable mention All-American in 1995, Simun Cimerman could earn first team honors with another strong campaign in 1997. The senior driver, who has one of the best shots in the NCAA, has scored 31 points so far. He was named to the All-So-Cal Tournament first team.
JAMES CASTLE - A starter on the U.S. Junior National Team the last two years, sophomore James Castle (Hacienda Heights, Wilson HS) is one of USC's standouts in 1997. He's playing well with 34 points, including a career-high four goals against UC Davis (Sept. 26). Castle surpassed his 1996 total of 17 points after just nine games. He was named to the All-So-Cal Tournament second team.
COACH WILLIAMS SAYS - "Saturday is only a game for pride at this point. We play again six days later so it will be interesting to see what each teams does. A win means momentum toward the MPSF Tournament, but even then neither team is going to show anything new this weekend. We're just going to try and come out and play with enthusiasm and beat UCLA."