Trojans Seek National Championship
THIS WEEK USC, led by co-head coaches John Williams and Jovan Vavic, seeks the school's first-ever NCAA men's water polo championship this weekend at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Trojans are the No. 2 seed among the four teams. The schedule is as follows:
Friday, December 5, 1997 - Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Semifinal #1: Pepperdine (23-3) vs. UC Davis (15-18), 7 p.m. EST
Sunday, December 7, 1997 - Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Third-Place Game: 1 p.m. EST
USC IN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS - USC is aiming for its first-ever national title after some near-misses in recent years. In the '90s, the Trojans finished second in 1996, 1994 and 1993 and third in 1992. USC has finished second five times overall. A first-time winner will be crowned, as none of the tournament's four teams have won a Division I national championship in men's water polo. USC has an all-time record of 28-17 (.622) in 15 previous NCAA tournaments.
VS. NCAA OPPONENTS - USC and Queens College of New York have never met ... Since 1979, when records were first kept, USC has a 32-14-1 (.691) record against Pepperdine, including a 1-2 mark this season. The Trojans handed Pepperdine one of its three losses this season in the semifinals of the MPSF Championships. Marko Pintaric and Mateo Juric each scored three points in a 10-9 victory. The Waves defeated the Trojans in the title game of the Southern California Tournament and in an MPSF conference game. In NCAA play, USC is also 1-2 against Pepperdine, with the last meeting in 1986 (Pepperdine won, 10-9, in the first round) ... USC is 9-0 against UC Davis since 1979. The Trojans defeated the Aggies, 15-4, earlier this season as Pintaric scored five points.
1997 MPSF CHAMPIONSHIPS - The Trojans captured their second straight MPSF Championships title last weekend, and in doing so, earned the conferenceās automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. Entering as the fourth seed and facing a must-win situation, USC won three nail-biters in beating No. 5 UCLA (8-7), No. 1 Pepperdine (10-9) and No. 3 Stanford (5-4).
NEWS & NOTES - USC has won four consecutive one-goal games and has a 6-2 record in such games. Five of USC's six losses have been by two goals or less ... Despite a lesser record, the Trojans are actually playing better defense than a year ago when they finished 23-3 and second in the nation. Now, they're giving up 6.58 goals per game, compared to 6.69 in 1996 ... This was expected to be a bit of a reloading season for the Trojans, as they lost seven seniors from the 1996 squad, including three All-Americans (two on the first team and one on the second team) ... USC has also played much of the season without a number of potential starters: Mateo Juric missed the first eight games with a wrist injury, Luke Daniels missed the first half of the season with a wrist injury, Stever O'Rourke is out with a broken arm and Bjorn Nordstrom is on a Mormon mission ... USC placed fourth in the MPSF regular season with a record of 5-3.
PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS - Sophomore goalie Richard McEvoy, one of the stars at the MPSF Championships, is heading home for the NCAA Championships. He is a native of Pembroke Pines, Fla., just 15 minutes away from Fort Lauderdale. The Hall of Fame Aquatic Center was where he played his club games growing up. McEvoy has made 157 saves in 21 games this season, including 31 in three games at the MPSFs ... As in the past, USC has been led by a group of Croatian standouts. Junior driver Marko Pintaric, in his first season of collegiate water polo, leads the Trojans with 59 points. Senior driver Simun Cimerman is second with 39 points and senior driver Mateo Juric is fourth with 34 points despite missing the first eight games of the season with a wrist injury. Cimerman was a 1996 second team All-American and Juric earned third team notice ... Sophomore 2-meter man James Castle, a starter on the U.S. Junior National team the last two seasons, has been solid in the hole with 37 points, good for third on the team.
1996 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS - The Trojans were ranked No. 1 for much of the season, but lost in the championship game to crosstown rival UCLA, 8-7. The Bruins took a 6-3 lead after the first quarter and were able to hold on. A wide-open, last-second and potential game-tying shot by the Trojans went wide. In the first round, USC beat UMass, 21-6. Marko Zagar, Hrvoje Cizmic and Simun Cimerman made the All-Tournament first team, while Dan Cherrie and Brendan Grubbs made the second team.