NCAA Champs Upsize With 15 Newcomers
Feb. 9, 2011
USC head coach Jovan Vavic has hauled in his largest class of men's water polo signees with a grand total of 15 newcomers signed on to join the Trojans in 2011. USC's new class of talent recently signed their letters of intent to come to Troy. Ladies and gentlemen, the Trojans welcome to the pool Philip Bamberg, Kevin Cappon, Macrae Carden, Eugene Chong, John Engh, Konstantinos Genidounias, James Hixson, David Lim, Emery Molnar, Russell Renteria, Aleck Ryner, Matt Schwartz, Erik Vogelzang, Marc Vonderweidt and Chasen Watson.
"We have a group of really top-notch players," Vavic said of his newcomers. "Looking at this class, we could have these guys compete immediately. These incoming players could compete against our starting unit now and give them a good game. I think that the future is very bright."
The talent runs deep for certain. More than a handful of players have experience at the Junior National Team level, playing for both the United States -- Cappon, Chong, Hixson, Renteria, Schwartz, Vonderweidt and Watson -- and also for Greece -- Genidounias.
A native of Greece, Genidounias competed at the 2009 Junior World Championships in Croatia for his home country, as did Chong for the USA. Both players are non-California products, as Chong hails from Mercer Island High School in Washington.
"Chong is a very smart player and an excellent defender," Vavic said. "He's a really great team player who does lots of little things that aren't alwasy noticed but very important. And Konstantinos was named the MVP of 18-under European Championships. He's also a driver, and he's very smart and a great finisher."
Size was also a focus of Vavic's in piecing together this powerful class of talent for 2011, when the Trojans will take aim at a fourth consecutive national championship. Tabbed with two-meter duties, Cappon hails from Dos Pueblos High School, Renteria was the CIF Division I Player of the Year out of El Toro High School, Hixson is a 6-foot-6 player from La Jolla High school who stands as one of the top players in the San Diego area, and Carden had his number retired at Junipero Serra High School as the all-time scorer at the school. At Corona del Mar High School, Molnar and Watson manned the hole and helped their squad to the CIF Division II title.
"We're getting a big class in terms of size," Vavic said. "Cappon is a two-meter defender who is a strong kid, a good shooter with great potential. Renteria is very difficult to match up with because he can beat you from outside and he's a two-meter man. He's very strong and very fast and a great shooter. Hixson has a great outside arm, plays very good two-meter defense, and is athletic and strong. Carden can play either two-meter position; he's very fast and a great finisher and he's strong and plays good defense.
"Molnar is another strong kid with lots of potential. He's an extremely hard worker. Watson is about 6-foot-7 and for him the sky's the limit because he's so long. One-on-one, he's unstoppable."
In terms of versatility in the field, Vavic points to Sacred Heart Prep High School standout Bamberg, who will be joined on the roster by another Northern California product, Ryner -- a Miramonte High School goalie with good size to help man the cage when three-time All-American Joel Dennerley finishes his Trojan career. Vavic also has Engh coming to the cage from the Bishop's School
"Bamberg is arguably the best player from Northern California," Vavic said. "He's an excellent shooter and is a big strong kid who can play more that one position. Ryner is very long with long arms. He's a very talented goalie and his team the last four years has won championships. He's one of those guys who will compete for playing time in goal. Engh is also long and lanky and very smart. He's a hard worker."
In terms of drivers, USC is all set with speed and scoring prowess thanks to the addition of Schwartz, Vonderweidt, Lim and Vogelzang. As players with Junior National Team experience, Schwartz and Vonderweidt are both drivers out of the LA area. Schwartz is out of Loyola High School, and Vonderweidt hails from Santa Monica High School. Vogelzang comes from just down the 405 as a Long Beach Wilson High School scoring threat, and Lim will make the journey from Hawai'i as have his brothers Daniel and Stephen, to bring some strength from Iolani High School to Troy.
"Schwartz is a natural scorer," Vavic said. "He's one of the best shooters in this class and also a very tough defender with great speed. Vonderweidt traveled to Italy in the summer with the Junior National Team. He's fast and an excellent shooter and a very good defender.
"Lim is a quick and smart driver who is very intellignet and knows how to put the ball in the cage. He's a very quick learner. And Vogelzang is an excellent shooter and a very good driver. He loves to shoot the ball and that's his number one thing."
"I see in this class some future Olympians," Vavic said. "There are some guys here that can be in the Olympics one day. They have a great love for the game, and more than anything this is a very talented class."