Dec. 7, 2008
PALO ALTO, CALIF. - For the USC men's water polo seniors, today's 7-5 win over Stanford notched their 100th career win as Trojans. What's more, the victory capped off a perfect season for USC and earned the Trojans their fourth NCAA Championship. Not since a 5-0 final record in 1944 has USC gone undefeated in a season, but this year's dominating 29-0 run through 2008 blows that previous program record out of the water. In today's final at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center, the Trojans again came through on the shoulders of a powerful defense, while Shea Buckner led all scorers with three goals in the historic win by USC.
Of the four national championships claimed by USC in program history, two of those have been captured by seniors Arjan Ligtenberg and Jovan Vranes. Since coming to Troy, the two seniors have accumulated a 100-6 career record as Trojans. They won their first NCAA title in 2005 as freshmen, when USC beat Stanford 3-2 in the national championship game. USC is the first team in 16 years to go undefeated through an entire season. California last achieved a perfect en route to a national championship in 1992.
J.W. Krumpholz was named the MVP of the NCAA Tournament, with Matt Sagehorn and Shea Buckner also All-Tournament First Team picks. On the NCAA All-Tournament Second Team are seniors Arjan Ligtenberg and Jovan Vranes along with freshman Peter Kurzeka.
After falling behind 1-0 and then 2-1 in the first period of tonight's NCAA Championship, USC rifled in five straight goals on the hands of five different scorers to catapult into control of the game. The Trojan defense combined field blocks with big stops by goalie Joel Dennerley to shut down the Cardinal for over 17 minutes of play.
Stanford got on the board first in the second minute of action. After a takeaway at set by Buckner, J.W. Krumpholz earned a 6-on-5 for the Trojans, and Buckner blasted in the equalizer at 4:27. Stanford goalie Jimmie Sandman turned away five shots by the Trojans in the frame, while Stanford struck with a 6-on-5 of its own at 2:56 to take a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Another Sandman save opened the second period, only to see USC crack the Cardinal for three straight goals while the Trojan defense pitched a shutout. Arjan Ligtenberg earned a 5-meter penalty shot after snagging a rebound from the Sandman save. Buckner lined up for the penalty shot and buried it to level the game 2-2. Joel Dennerley stymied a Stanford 6-on-5 next, and USC took its first lead when Anthony Artukovich found Jordan Thompson at 2-meters for a 3-2 USC edge. Peter Kurzeka nabbed a steal at set next, and Justin Rappel sent a screaming skipper to the back of the net to set USC on a solid path to the championship with a 4-2 lead.
USC `s scoring surge extended in the second half with a ferocious cross-cage bar-in strike from Buckner - his third score of the day. Dennerley shut down another Stanford 6-on-5 to keep it a 5-2 USC lead, and then USC worked the ball from Kurzeka to Rappel to Kyle Sterling on the left post for a high-flying blast that made it 6-2 USC with 1:12 on the clock in the third.
Stanford put a stop to USC's scoring streak when a looping shot floated across the goalline before the buzzer to make it 6-3 entering the final frame. And although managed to make good on a pair of 6-on-5 advantages in the fourth period, a searing backhand out of set from Krumpholz kept USC's lead well padded, taking USC up 7-4 before Stanford's last score finished off the game as a 7-5 Trojan championship victory. One last defensive word was made, however, as Kurzeka put up a field block on a late Stanford try to close out the match and put the finishing touches on USC's fourth national championship and a perfect season for the Trojans.
USC 7, Stanford 5
STAN 2 - 0 - 1 - 2 -- 5
USC 1 - 3 - 2 - 1 -- 7
USC - Shea Buckner 3, Jordan Thompson, Justin Rappel, Kyle Sterling, J.W. Krumpholz.
STAN - Drac Wigo, Jeffrey Schwimer, Ryan McCarthy, Jason Wigo, Sage Wright.
SAVES: Joel Dennerley (USC) 10, Jimmie Sandman (STAN) 10.
2008 NCAA All-Tournament Team
J.W. Krumpholz (USC) - MVP
Tim Hummel (LMU)
Sage Wright (Stanford)
Drac Wigo (Stanford)
Matt Sagehorn (USC)
Shea Buckner (USC)
Andy Stevens (LMU)
Jimmie Sandman (Stanford)
Mike Mulvey (Navy)
Janson Wigo (Stanford)
Peter Kurzeka (USC)
Will Hindle-Katel (Stanford)
Jovan Vranes (USC)
Tibor Forai (LMU)
Time Heafner (LMU)
Arjan Ligtenberg (USC)
USC Head coach Jovan Vavic
"Defense wins championships. It is as simple as that. We have been the best defensive team in the nation all season and our guys came ready today and played great defense. We were not necessarily great at offense, but we did what we needed to do. Both guys next to me (Ligtenberg and Buckner) did a great job handling Stanford's big guys. I thought that J.W. Krumpholz was outstanding, he had a couple of great shots. It was a great team effort. It was one of those games where every player that was in contributed and I am very proud of them."
On penalty shots making a difference in turning the game:
"I didn't think it was, it was so early in the game. One key goal, in my opinion, was Jordan Thompson's goal, because we were in there with our second rotation and many of our starters were resting and we had a period of three, four minutes where we were going up and down, up and down, and Jordan just buried the goal. Obviously in the end J.W. Krumpholz's goal was huge. But every goal is big."
On Shea Buckner's performance:
"Shea was absolutely the toughest player in the water today. Shea and J.W. and Arjan. But Shea really stepped it up today. This was the best game of his career. When we needed him he stepped up and put the ball away but he also played incredible defense today."
On Stanford's Jimmie Sandman as goalie:
I thought that the entire Stanford team had an incredible season and I really have to give John Vargas lots of credit for preparing the team. This is a young team. People maybe don't really realize how young and how good this team is. They are kind of similar to us last year, because the leadership of that team is juniors and seniors. There are a couple of great seniors like we had last year, but the majority of the team are younger players. I think that Sandman was outstanding the entire year. He is the leader of that team and he stepped it up. We worried about Sandman for this game and every game, I think that he had a great year."
On strategy against the Wigo brothers:
"We do have to worry about the Wigo brothers because they are very dangerous outside shooters. We usually put our best defenders on them. J.W. was guarding number seven (Janson), and a lot of times one of our other better defenders was guarding number 10 (Drac). Absolutely, they are a big concern for us. Our plan is always to make sure that we know where they are in the water. If you forget where they are, you are going to get punished."
On playing in his hometown area:
"It's a dream come true. Everything I've imagined and what I'd hoped for. It's why I came to SC."
On family and friends cheering:
"My whole family lives here. This is where I grew up. A lot of friends came. It was great playing in front of them."
On playing for Coach Vavic:
"Its fantastic, he prepares us like no other coach. He gives us everything we need and sets us free. The game plan he gives us has absolutely no holes in it. We know exactly what to do, every single situation. He spends hours, days, months preparing us for this one game and it definitely shows in the water. Every single situation, we know what to do. He's been training us our whole careers for this moment. It's great having a coach who knows his stuff and works for this goal, with you. It really helps."
On the difference between freshman win and this win v. Stanford:
I've put in three more years. My freshman year, (the win) just came to me because of the upperclassmen and I was fortunate enough to be part of that team and to be able to help them win the championship. But I've put in three more years to get back to the same spot. It definitely means, not to take anything away, but it definitely means a lot more to win it my senior year."
On emotions as part of his game:
"Yes, especially in the championship game, we are trying to win for our seniors, we are putting everything on the line. Emotions are high. When things go your way you are excited. Things were going our way. Joel was firing me up left and right, making those incredible blocks out there. Thompson and Rappel, getting awesome shots. I was just fired up. It was a great experience, just trying to enjoy it as much as I can."
"All of our friends, our old teammates, all of our best friends leading the cheers, it was awesome, a great experience."
On Arjan's leadership:
"I've looked up to Arjan since I came to USC. He's the best defender on our team. Every two-meter man who comes up against him, they don't want anything to do with Arjan. So they go in for two seconds and swim out and bring in a post-up. Arjan is just devastating trying to set up against. He's seven feet tall, 260-270 pounds, it's just crazy. Then he leads us down in the counterattack. I look up to Arjan. I can't do what he does when I guard, but I try as much as I can to."
On Playing for Coach Vavic:
"I think it's really evident in our center plays. After another team scores a goal how we come back and the opportunities we create immediately after. It's all how Jovan prepares us for these plays. We work on them and we practice them. Immediately after they score, our goal is to go down there and create an opportunity. I'd say 90% of the time, we do. And against Navy, nine out of 13 times, we did. Tonight out of the four goals, we had at least two or three opportunities. It's evident in the way we come out in our time out 6-on-5, our time out defense we have plays. We are prepared because of Jovan. He does his research. We are the best-prepared team in the country. Every game."