USC Wins NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship!
Dec. 7, 2003
Predrag Damjanov powered his way to a team-leading three goals, including the insurance score in overtime, to lead the top-ranked USC men's water polo team to a 9-7 victory over second-ranked Stanford in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday (Dec. 7) at the Avery Aquatic Center.
The title gives USC 98 national championships in men's and women's sports.
It was USC's fourth victory this season over Stanford, the two-time defending NCAA champion.
Damjanov, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound senior from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, scored with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to insure the Trojan victory. With the score tied at 7-7 after regulation play, USC's Trevor Clark scored what proved to be the winning goal with 56 seconds remaining in the second three-minute overtime.
USC jumped to a 4-1 halftime lead. Cameron Kaiser scored at 5:04 of the first period, Damjanov at 51 seconds of the first period, and then came two second period goals by James Shin at 4:06 and Kaiser at 2:36. Stanford's Tony Azevedo scored the first of his four goals at 3:11 of the first period.
Down 4-1 at halftime, Stanford scored three straight goals to tie the game. Azevedo scored at 6:41 of the third period followed by Mike Derse on a 6-on-5 goal at 2:49. The Cardinal tied it 26 seconds later on another power play goal by Peter Varellas.
USC then took a two goal lead at 6-4 when Gadi Hadar scored at 1:54 of the third period followed by a Damjanov score at 6:04 of the fourth period.
Then Stanford took its first lead of the game when the Cardinal scored three straight goals to take a 7-6 lead with 2:28 to play. Matt Moser scored at 4:08 of the fourth period followed by Azevedo goals at 3:24 and 2:28.
But with 1:31 remaining, Hadar rocketed a shot past Stanford goalkeeper Chad Taylor on an extra man situation to tie the game at 7-7.
"Our strategy coming into this game as to drive more than in our last games," said USC coach Jovan Vavic. "But down the stretch, strategy gets thrown in the water and it all becomes about playing with heart and desire."
Bozidar Damjanovic, who collected 14 saves for USC, was named tournament co-MVP along with Azevedo.
"I was very proud of the team and how we fought," said Cardinal coach John Vargas. "I thought we played pretty well defensively, but give credit to USC, they played great. Damjanov presented a lot of problems because of his size, but I thought we played good defense to keep the game close."
USC ended the year at 23-3, while Stanford finished at 22-5.
Azevedo, Mike Derse and Peter Varellas were named to the all-tournament first team while Chad Taylor and Thomas Hopkins were named second team all-tournament. USC's Juraj Zatovic, Damjanovic and Damjanov were named first team all-tournament along with Endre Rex-Kiss of Loyola Marymount. Named to the second team all-tournament were Joe Donahue and Alex Ratcliffe of Navy, James Shin and Gadi Hadar of USC, and Tamas Szego of Loyola Marymount.
USC 2 2 1 2 0-2 = 9
Stanford 1 0 3 3 0-0 = 7
Stanford Scorers: Azevedo 4, Derse 1, Varellas 1, Moser 1
USC Scorers: Damjanov 3, Hadar 2, Kaiser 2, Clark 1, Shin 1
Goalie Saves: Taylor (S) 11; Damjanovic (USC) 14
USC Head Coach Jovan Vavic
"This has been an incredible season and there is nothing better than winning a national championship."
On the game ...
"For my guys to come back, and especially for my freshmen to come back, and score that goal, I really think that tells what sports are all about. No one ever gave up out there tonight."
"This is a game that is all about matchups and we really match up well against Stanford with our deep bench and excellent goalie."
On previous Stanford matches ...
"I don't think that any of our guys ever thought about our last games against Stanford. It is so exhausting out there that you don't really have time to think. You execute the best you can and just react."
On game strategy ...
"Our strategy coming into this game was to drive more than in our last games. But down the stretch, strategy gets thrown in the water and it all becomes about playing with heart and desire."
USC Goalie Bozidar Damjanovic
"It was tense from beginning to end, but it is always tense in a final game. Our whole team felt comfortable out there and we were not going to give up. What was most important for us is that we just played our game."
Stanford Head Coach John Vargas
"I was very proud of the team and how we fought. I thought we played pretty well defensively, but give credit to USC, they played great. (USC's) Damjanov presents a lot of problems because of his size, but I thought we played pretty good defense to keep the game close."
Stanford 2-meter Defender Michael Dersey
"Damjanov is very strong. He outweighs me by 70 pounds, but I tried to use my quickness. It was a battle the entire game."