Men's Water Polo
    Top-Seeded Trojans Take Aim At Historic Fourth Straight NCAA Title
    Jovan Vavic has the Trojans in pursuit of a seventh NCAA title.
    Jovan Vavic has the Trojans in pursuit of a seventh NCAA title.

    Nov. 30, 2011

    USC MWP 2011 NCAA ReleaseGet Acrobat Reader

    THIS WEEK
    USC is the top seed in the National Collegiate Championships for the seventh consecutive season as the Trojans (22-3) look to make history with a fourth straight national championship this weekend in the Dec. 3-4 action in Berkeley, Calif. USC opens up against No. 4 seed Princeton (21-9) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 3) for the right to face either No. 2 seed UCLA (23-4) or No. 3 seed UC San Diego (17-9) in a 3:12 p.m. NCAA championship match on Sunday (Dec. 4) at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex. All games will be streamed live online at ncaa.com.

    RANKINGS
    USC opened 2011 as the No. 1 team in the land and remained there for four weeks until taking its first losses on Oct. 2 and moving to No. 4. On Oct. 19, however, USC moved up to rank No. 2, and would jump up into a tie at the top with UCLA from Nov. 9 until Nov. 23. In the past two weeks, USC and UCLA have traded the top slot, with the Bruins now ranked No. 1 and USC sitting at No. 2 on the way into this week's National Collegiate Championships.

    THIS TIME LAST YEAR
    In 2010, USC was the top seed in the National Collegiate Championships for the sixth straight season, having earned the automatic bid into the tournament after winning the MPSF Tournament Championship for the seventh time in program history to hold an 11-game win streak. USC was 26-2 overall entering the 2010 tourney, which was its 25th NCAA appearance. For the sixth straight season, USC led the nation in defense in averaging 5.9 goals-against per game and was averaging 12.9 goals per game. Freshman Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie were leading USC in scoring with 45 and 40 goals per game, respectively, and goalie Joel Dennerley was averaging 7.5 saves and 5.3 goals-against per game. Overall, USC had outscored opponents 360-166 to date, with a program-record 21 different scorers getting to the back of the net on the year, including nine scorers with at least 20 goals to date and an average of eight goal scorers per game entering the 2010 National Collegiate Championships. USC opened up against St. Francis and tallied a 10-7 win to move into the title match for the sixth straight year. There, USC tangled with the tournament host Cal for an overtime battle to determine the title winner. In OT, Peter Kurzeka struck first for the Trojans with his fourth goal of the game and Matt Burton plugged in another to take USC ahead 12-10 in the first overtime before defenses took over in the second to finish out a two-goal victory for USC in the Bears' home pool. Kurzeka was named NCAA Tournament MVP, and was joined in All-Tournament honors by Nikola Vavic on the First Team and three Trojans on the Second Team: Jeremy Davie, Joel Dennerley and Burton.

    AND NOW...
    USC is 22-3 overall entering the 2011 National Collegiate Championships, held once again in Berkeley, Calif, but with a field that does not include the tournament hosts. The Trojans earned the at-large berth into this year's tourney after falling 10-9 in OT to UCLA in the MPSF Championships in the Bruins' home pool last weekend. The NCAA title-winners in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Trojans are making their 26th overall visit to the tourney. With four NCAA crowns claimed in the past six championship appearances, USC hopes to become the first men's water polo team ever to win four consecutive national championships this weekend. If USC reaches the title match, it becomes only the second program ever to make seven straight championship appearances. Cal reached the final from 1986-1992 and won five championships during that span, but no team has even won four in a row. For the seventh straight year, USC leads the nation in defense, averaging 5.5 goals-against per game. Offensively, USC averages 11.6 goals per game, led by senior Peter Kurzeka's 38 goals and 36 from sophomore Nikola Vavic. Recently crowned as back-to-back MPSF Player of the Year, senior goalie Joel Dennerley is averaging 9.0 saves and 5.5 goals-against per game. Overall, USC has outscored opponents 290-138 to date, matching a program-best 21 different scorers, including nine different scorers with at least 15 goals so far. USC has averaged seven goal scorers per game.

    THE CONTENDERS
    USC's semifinal opponent Princeton (21-9) is making its second NCAA appearance in the past three seasons, having qualified as the Collegiate Water Polo Association champion. No. 2 seed UCLA (23-4) also last reached the National Collegiate Championships in 2009, and is the automatic qualifier from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation after winning last week's tournament title. The Bruins have won eight national championships overall, most recently in 2004. UC San Diego (17-9) is the No. 3 seed as the Tritons make their 11th appearance in the NCAA tournament as the Western Water Polo Association champs.

    THE MATCHUPS

    USC vs. Princeton
    	All-time:	4-0
    	This season:	1-0
    	Last:	W 13-4 (Sept. 29, 2011)
    	Last in NCAA Tourn.:	W 13-3 (2009 semi)
    USC vs. UCLA
    	All-time:	59-45-1
    	This season:	2-2
    	Last:	L 10-9 (SD) (Nov. 27, 2011)
    	Last in NCAA Tourn.:	W 7-6 (2009 final)
    USC vs. UC San Diego
    	All-time:	32-2
    	This season:	none
    	Last:	W 10-9 (Oct. 15, 2006)
    	Last in NCAA Tourn.:	L 9-8 (2000 semi)
    

    SPREAD OFFENSE
    This year, 21 different Trojans have scored goals, including a set of five with at least 20 goals to date. Peter Kurzeka leads the pack with 38, followed by Nikola Vavic with 36 and Jeremy Davie and Kostas Genidounias with 28 each. USC set its highwater mark with a season-high 12 different scorers in a 21-1 win over Pomona-Pitzer on Oct. 1, and is averaging seven scorers per game.

    SENIOR CORE AIMS FOR FOUR
    Trojan seniors Matt Burton, Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka were freshmen when USC won the 2008 NCAA championship. As sophomores, they again held the trophy high at the end of that season. Last year, as juniors, they led a USC squad picked to finish fourth in the conference to the top yet again. Now, with the stiff breeze of three straight national championships pushing them into their senior season at Troy, the All-American trio aims to reach the top once again and, in doing so, become the first collegiate men's water polo team ever to win four consecutive national championships. Burton has been sidelined this season by elbow surgery, but will return next year. Dennerley and Kurzeka recently saw their career win count hit the century mark with USC's two-win Saturday on Nov. 5.

    AUSTRALIAN TAKEOVER
    Senior Joel Dennerley became USC's all-time career saves leader while also helping the Trojans claim their second straight NorCal Tournament championship. After 12 saves in a dominating 12-5 semifinal win over Stanford, Dennerley needed just three saves in the title match against UCLA in order to take over as USC's all-time career saves leader. The senior went well over that mark in collecting a career-high 19 saves for the Trojans' defensive stand against the rival Bruins, anchoring a 10-8 win to net the tournament title for USC while chiseling himself in Trojan history by eclipsing a 24-year stand by Kevin Stringer as the USC saves leader. Dennerley now holds 835 career saves. He's averaging 9.0 saves per game now, with an MPSF-best 5.5 goals against average.

    IN THE BOOKS
    USC seniors Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka have inked their names on the USC career charts with impressive numbers as they touch in on their final seasons at Troy. Dennerley became USC's all-time career saves leader with a career-high 19-save outing vs. UCLA in the NorCal Championship game on Sept. 18. Kurzeka, meanwhile, is climbing up the career goals ladder. His 100th career goal was the winner in USC's 2010 NCAA Championship game, and he now holds 138 to stand at No. 11 all-time -- five shy of cracking the top-10 slot held by Juan Delgadillo with 143.

    INTERNATIONAL PREVIEW
    Trojans Jeremy Davie and Kostas Genidounias joined forces as teammates for the first time after having squared off as opponents at the FINA Men's Junior World Championships. A returning All-American for the Trojans, Davie capped up for his Australian Junior National Team, while newcomer Genidounias was a hometown hero for his Greek Junior National Team for the competition that came to a close on Sept. 4 in Volos, Greece. Both Trojans were key contributors for their respective squads overseas, as Australia and Greece wound up clashing in the third-place game. Davie struck first for Australia in the game, but it was Greece that would prevail in a 7-5 decision that secured a bronze medal for Genidounias and his Greek teammates. Both Trojans have wasted no time making an impact for USC, standing even with 28 goals apiece entering the NCAA tourney.

    TOP GUNS RELOAD
    Offensively, USC's top 10 scorers from 2010 returned to the water in 2011. That group accounted for 81 percent of USC's goal count last season. USC's top scorer as a freshman and an All-American as well, Nikola Vavic returns. More young power is generated from All-American Jeremy Davie, and fellow sophomores Mace Rapsey and Connor Virjee, who helped claim that third straight title in their first seasons of action with the Trojans, along with Tobias Preuss and Stephen Siri. More veteran talent comes in the form of Brian Boswell and Michael Rosenthal, members of USC's last two NCAA championship rosters.

    2010 RECAP
    The 2010 Trojans were picked fourth in both the 2010 MPSF and national preseason polls before thundering through the season with a 26-2 overall record to add the 2010 NCAA crown to its 2008 and 2009 trophies. USC took two losses during the regular season, but went on a roll to close out the year by winning the MPSF Tournament title and then finishing off a 12-10 overtime win over host Cal in the NCAA Championship game. It was USC's 25th NCAA appearance and sixth national championship, and gave the Trojans their fourth title in the past six seasons. Jovan Vavic was named the National Coach of the Year, making him the only men's water polo coach to earn three consecutive selections. Five Trojans were named All-Americans at year's end as well. MPSF Player of the Year Joel Dennerley and Peter Kurzeka earned First Team honors, with Matt Burton, Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie also named All-Americans. Vavic was the team's top scorer with 49 goals, leading a set of 21 scorers on the year. As a team, USC was the best in the MPSF, averaging 12.7 goals per game offensively and allowing 6.1 goals per game defensively. USC outscored its opponents 382-183 in 2010. •