Joel Dennerley, Jovan Vavic Top National Charts
Feb. 21, 2012
Following an unprecedented fourth straight national championship, the USC men's water polo team has picked up even more accolades with a sweep of the top honors from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches. USC senior goalie Joel Dennerley has become the fifth Trojan all-time to be named the National Player of the Year, and head coach Jovan Vavic is the National Coach of the Year for the 10th time in his career. Also joining Dennerley on the 2011 All-Amercia First Team is senior Peter Kurzeka. Sophomores Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic have picked up Second Team All-America honors, with four more Trojans on the list for All-America Honorable Mention: Kostas Genidounias, Tobias Preuss, Mace Rapsey and Michael Rosenthal. With a grand total of eight All-Americans, USC ties its program high last hit in 2009.
Senior goalie Joel Dennerley not only closed out his USC career as the Trojans' all-time saves leader, he also is now a four-time All-American. He stands out as the fifth Trojan to be named National Player of the Year, following Marko Pintaric (1998), Juraj Zatovic (2005), Juan Delgadillo (2006) and J.W. Krumpholz (2008 & 2009). Dennerley already stands out as the first Trojan to be named back-to-back MPSF Player of the Year after he helped anchor USC to an undefeated finish in the MPSF regular season. In 2011, Dennerley ensured that the Trojans would be the top defensive team in the country once again as he averaged 9.2 saves per game and allowed just 5.4 goals per game down the stretch. That included a whopping 15 saves in the NCAA Championship game against UCLA, where Dennerley was named Tournament MVP as he and the Trojans dominated the Bruins to claim USC's fourth straight national championship.
Dennerley has had fellow senior Peter Kurzeka in the water with him throughout those four championship runs. A three-time All-American now, Kurzeka was USC's leading scorer in 2011 and finished his Trojan career as USC's No. 11 all-time scorer. Defensively savvy as well as a dangerous attacker, Kurzeka's well-rounded game has earned him All-America First Team honors for the second straight season to go along with back-to-back All-MPSF First Team honors. With six goals scored in a win this season, Kurzeka tallied the most goals scored by a Trojan in a single game since 2001.
At the helm for USC's historic fourth straight national championship, head coach Jovan Vavic has now won four consecutive National Coach of the Year awards on the men's side -- record-setting feat when he won his third straight award last year. This 2011 selection gives him a career total of 10 such honors (seven men's and three women's), to go along with the 10 national championships he has now managed between the USC men's and women's programs. In this most recent run to the 2011 National Coach of the Year, Vavic guided the Trojans to a 24-3 overall record as they made history as the first men's team ever to win four straight national titles. Vavic wrapped up his 17th season as head coach of the USC men holding a 391-64 (.859) overall career record. His Trojans have reached the NCAA final the past seven years, with championships won in five of those appearances (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
Dennerley and Kurzeka were without their fellow senior Matt Burton for the majority of the 2011 season, as Burton was sidelined early by injury. That trio had been in the pool for the previous three national championships, having won their first crown together as freshmen in 2008. Michael Rosenthal was a redshirt on that roster in 2008, but his growing experience and skill has been invaluable in compiling the past Trojan titles. This season, Rosenthal has earned his first career All-America honors with his spot on the 2011 All-America Honorable Mention list. The Trojans' main opening sprinter, Rosenthal set up his team with numerous opening attacks, and also served up 22 goals on the year.
Rosenthal and the rest of the 2011 All-Americans on the Second Team and Honorable Mention list are all set to return to the Trojan roster for 2012, as USC takes aim at a fifth straight national championship. This season's members of the All-America Second Team -- sophomores Jeremy Davie and Nikola Vavic -- have set themselves up to follow in Dennerley's footsteps as potential four-time All-Americans in following up freshman seasons on the list with 2011 accolades as well. Vavic was USC's second leading scorer in 2011 with 41 goals, and Davie knocked in 29 for the Trojans primarily from the two-meter spot. Both were on the list for All-MPSF First Team honors this season as well.
The 2011 All-America Honorable Mention list has four Trojans earning their first career All-America honors in redshirt junior Michael Rosenthal, junior Tobias Preuss, sophomore Mace Rapsey and freshman Kostas Genidounias. Genidounias is the only member of that group to have grabbed an All-MPSF award in 2011, as the freshman stood as USC's third leading scorer on the year with 31 goals to pick up All-MPSF Honorable Mention. Preuss and Rapsey combined for 29 goals on the year, matching their abilities to score clutch goals with powerful passing and defensive prowess.