Trojans Tack On 12 Newcomers For 2014
March 1, 2014
As the USC men's water polo team sets up for pursuit of a seventh straight national championship, the Trojans have hauled in a bumper crop of new talent to help their cause. USC head coach Jovan Vavic has announced the signing of 12 standout players to add to the USC roster for 2014. National letters of intent have poured in from across the country, as new Trojans have signed on to start their USC careers with the nation's best water polo program. The strong group of signees to come to Troy in 2014 are: McQuin Baron, Ben Goncharenko, Bryce Hoerman, Brock Hudnut, Chase Koplow, Andrew Mericle, Tristan Reinhardt, Jake Sanders, Murphy Slater, Grant Stein, Zack Traversi and James Walters.
Winners of an unprecedented six consecutive NCAA titles, the USC men's water polo program has seen some of the best talent in the world come through the waters of Troy. This year, the Trojans boast a brand-new arena in the state-of-the art Uytengsu Aquatics Center, which officially opened its doors on Feb. 21. This new class of Trojans will be the first to begin their careers in the new facility, and it's a star-studded cast that will take the stage for USC in the 2014 season to come.
The 12-man crew boasts many athletes with national team experience, while also fitting the bill for balance in coach Vavic's scheme.
"I'm very pleased with this class," Vavic said. "It's a deep group and very balanced. It really covers most of the positions we needed. Every single player that's coming in really has a definite shot at playing this year or next. Some of these guys also have bright futures in USA Water Polo, too. On the whole, it's a very strong group."
A 6-foot-9 goalie, McQuin Baron is already battle-tested as a member of the U.S. National Team. Hailing from Mater Dei High School, Baron has risen through the ranks of USA Water Polo while also picking up CIF Player of the Year honors and All-CIF First Team selections. He and Ben Goncharenko are the heirs to the throne in the cage left by USC's departing All-American goalie James Clark. Baron and 6-4 Goncharenko -- who comes to USC from La Serna High as another All-CIF honoree -- will be the main charges of USC's associate head coach Marko Pintaric, who is the Trojans' goalie coach and who has seen nine Trojan goalies compete in the Olympic Games.
"McQuin will dominate in college water polo for the next 4 years," said Vavic, who is excited for the combination of Baron and Goncharenko in the cage. "Ben is an excellent goalie. He's long and has great balance in the cage. He's somebody we hope to play right away."
Also tabbed to help further the Trojans' defensive game is Bryce Hoerman, a 6-2 defensive specialist who was a standout on the U.S. Youth National Team and who also trains with the national team. A product of Cathedral Catholic High School, Hoerman is "fast, and he was the best defender on the U.S. Youth team at the Pan American Games in Argentina," according to Vavic.
Adding to USC's pool of lefties will be Brock Hudnut, who set the Pasadena Poly record with 117 single-season assists and was a First Team All-CIF selection.
"Brock is very fast and very smart," Vavic said of Hudnut. "He's probably going to be one of our smarter players who will learn our system quickly."
Coming to Troy from Florida will be Chase Koplow, a driver who graduated from Boca Raton High School early and is currently training in Serbia.
"Chase is very smart and crafty," Vavic said of Koplow. "He's a very good defender and passer."
Andrew Mericle was a First Team All-CIF honoree out of Tesoro High, where he also was named Sea View League MVP in 2013.
"Andrew is an excellent 2-meter defender," Vavic said of Mericle. He has strong legs and has been playing water polo for a long time. We can really use his strength at 2-meters."
A couple more players with experience in the USA Water Polo system include Tristan Reinhardt and Jake Sanders. Both have plenty of power at the 2-meter slot. Reinhardt has picked up All-CIF honors for his work at Murrietta Valley High. Sanders, too, has been an All-CIF honoree as his high school career has taken him from University High to Mater Dei.
"Tristan isn't very big, but he's tough as nails and played at the 2-meter position for the U.S. Youth team," Vavic said. "Jake also trains with the national team and has a wicked shot."
The Trojans will get an additional shot of size with a pair of 6-foot-5 standouts in Murphy Slater and Grant Stein. Slater was a First Team All-CIF pick and the Long Beach Press-Telegram's 2013 Player of the Year out of Wilson High. Stein, whose sister Michelle was an All-American at USC, comes to Troy from Pam Desert, where he also was a First Team All-CIF selection. Both have significant potential for a future with USA Water Polo as well, according to Vavic.
"Murphy is a great young player who could be one of the best in the United States in a year or two," Vavic said of Slater. "He can play as a 2-meter defender and also post up. He will help us immediately."
"Grant is a lefty with great speed and a great arm, and he will be on a U.S. National Team for sure," Vavic said of Stein. " He's an outstanding player with huge hands and can get out of the water. He's also an excellent shooter and passer."
Loyola High product Zack Traversi joins the Trojans as an accomplished local utility player. Vavic says he was "one of the best 14-under players in the nation. He has tons of talent and an excellent outside shot."
Rounding out the incredible group of newcomers is one player who is already very familiar with the Trojan Family. James Walters follows in the footsteps of his brother Jon, who was a freshman on USC's 2013 NCAA Championship team this past season. Jon recently passed away, but James will ensure that the Walters name continues its strength at Troy. A 6-2 utility player out of Mater Dei, James carries a stacked list of honors earned with the Monarchs as well as plenty of experience with the U.S. national teams.
"James is a beast," Vavic said. "He's a very dominant player, very intelligent, and he's a combination of strength, speed and size. He's eager to continue his brother Jon's legacy at USC."
As a whole, this class is almost entirely comprised of Southern California talent. That's a factor that Vavic enjoys, as he looks forward to the familiarity and chemistry that this class of freshman will have -- as well as the immediate impact they will have in the pool for the Trojans.
"When you have guys who know each other and have spent time together on national teams or club teams, it makes it more fun. They want to win together," Vavic said. "We have high expectations for this team. We certainly think we can win it all with these guys along with the great talent and experience we have coming back next season."