USC men's water polo looks to become the first USC team in 30 years to win three consecutive national titles.
Dec. 1, 2010
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USC is loaded up with an 11-game winning streak as the Trojans open up their campaign for a third straight national championship and sixth overall title this weekend at the 2010 National Collegiate Championships, held Dec. 4-5 in Berkeley, Calif. USC is the top seed for the action, facing No. 4 seed St. Francis at 1 p.m. on Saturday for the right to face either No. 2 host California or No. 3 Loyola Marymount in a 3 p.m. NCAA championship match on Sunday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. All games at the tournament will be streamed live at www.ncaa.com.
USC has seen time at the No. 4, No. 3 and No. 2 spots in the national rankings this season, but most recently grabbed back the rights to the No. 1 position for the first time since mid-October. USC enters NCAA action at No. 1, ahead of No. 2 California, No. 8 LMU and No. 11 St. Francis joining the Trojans in this weekend's title race.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
USC was 24-2 overall last season in entering the 2009 NCAA Championships, and was the No. 1 seed for the tourney after claiming the at-large berth into the championships. USC had finished third in the MPSF Tournament but had posted an undefeated mark in the MPSF regular season. For the fifth straight season, USC was leading the nation in team defense, allowing 5.57 goals per game with goalie Joel Dennerley averaging 6.6 saves and 4.84 goals against per game. USC's offense was averaging 11.4 goals per game, with Shea Buckner and Justin Rappel even at the top with 41 goals apiece and a total of seven different Trojans holding at least 20 goals so far this year. Overall, 19 different players had scored on the season with an average of seven scorers per game. USC was outscoring its opponents 296-145 entering the NCAA tournament. USC faced host Princeton to open the 2009 National Collegiate Championships in New Jersey, beating the Tigers 13-3 to earn a place in the title match against rival UCLA. The Trojans had already made history as the first team to make five straight NCAA final appearances in reaching that game, but the team capped the effort with a powerful performance against the Bruins - never trailing in the entire match - to pin up USC's second straight national championship with a 7-6 victory. Senior J.W. Krumpholz scored in his fourth straight NCAA title match in the win, while Shea Buckner and Matt Sagehorn also tallied scores in their final match as Trojans. But arguably the most powerful senior performance of the day came from Jordan Thompson, who scooped in two huge goals for USC to work his way toward honors as the NCAA Tournament MVP. Buckner and Krumpholz also secured spots on that NCAA All-Tournament First Team, and Sagehorn was named to the Second Team.
This year, USC is the top seed in the National Collegiate Championships for the sixth straight season, having earned the automatic bid into the tournament after winning the 2010 MPSF Championship last weekend. USC is 26-2 overall entering this year's tourney --- USC's 25th NCAA appearance. The Trojans are looking to make a sixth consecutive appearance in the national championship game, and ultimately aim at winning their third consecutive national crown. For the sixth straight season, USC leads the nation in defense in averaging 5.9 goals-against per game. The Trojans carry an 11-game winning streak into the tournament, and are averaging 12.9 goals per game. Freshmen Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie lead USC in scoring with 45 and 40 goals per game, respectively, and goalie Joel Dennerley is averaging 7.5 saves and 5.3 goals-against per game. Overall, USC has 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 so far. USC has averaged eight goal scorers per game.
USC's semifinal opponent St. Francis (24-3) qualified for its first NCAA appearance since 2005 as the Collegiate Water Polo Association champion. No. 2 seed California (23-3) earned the at-large berth out of the MPSF as the regular-season conference leader. The Bears are making their 26th overall postseason appearance and first since claiming back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. Loyola Marymount (19-8) is the No. 3 seed as the Lions make their fourth straight postseason appearance as the Western Water Polo Association champs.
USC vs. St. Francis
This season: none
Last: W 20-8 (2006)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: W 14-8 (2005 semis)
USC vs. California
This season: 1-1
Last: L 12-9 (Oct. 16 @ USC)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: L 8-6 (2007 final)
USC vs. Loyola Marymount
This season: 1-0
Last: W 10-5 (Sept. 12 @ LMU)
Last in NCAA Tourn.: W 8-4 (2007 semis)
The No. 2 seeded USC team endured an all-out battle with No. 4 seeded host Stanford to net an 8-7 win and claim the Trojans' seventh MPSF Championship last weekend at Avery Aquatic Center. After leading through much of the game, USC got stuck behind in the late stages of regulation. Matt Burton equalized with a 5-meter penalty shot to force overtime, but neither team could maintain an upper hand during OT. That brought up sudden death, where the Trojan defense ---- anchored by a powerful Joel Dennerley in goal -- stayed stubborn until USC eventually broke through with the game-winner from freshman Nikola Vavic in the second sudden-death frame. The 8-7 decision locks in the Trojans (26-2) with the automatic bid into the coming NCAA Tournament. The MPSF championship is USC's third in the past four years and seventh overall. The tournament win is also USC's third major tournament win this season, as the Trojans were victorious in the NorCal Tournament, SoCal Tournament and now the MPSF Tournament this year. On the way to the title match, USC topped UC Santa Barbara 10-2 in the first round before powering ahead of rival UCLA on the way to a 10-5 win in the semifinals.
The 2010 MPSF Player of the Year, junior goalie Joel Dennerley has the Trojans leading the conference on the defensive end once again, and most recently racked up 32 saves in three games to help anchor the Trojans to their seventh MPSF Championship last weekend. Averaging a conference-best 5.86 goals-against per game, Dennerley is also averaging 7.48 saves per game. That reliable count has pulled the junior up to currently rank No. 4 all-time in career saves at USC as he broke the 600-save mark at the MPSF Tournament. He's also a two-time MPSF Player of the Week honoree this year, giving the junior six such awards in his USC career to date. A two-time All-American, Dennerley was an All-MPSF honorable mention recipient last season and named to the All-MPSF Second Team as a freshman. Dennerley becomes the fifth Trojan to be named the MPSF Player of the Year and the first USC goalie to do so. He's just the second goalie in MPSF history to win the award. With 621 career saves to date, Dennerley is eight away from moving up to No. 3 all-time at Troy.
Rounding out the Trojans on the MPSF honor roll list this year are four players earning their first All-MPSF accolades. Junior driver Peter Kurzeka has locked down the first All-MPSF honors of his career in being selected to the 2010 All-MPSF First Team. A skilled defender, Kurzeka is also third on the team in scoring with 35 goals to date, including a pair of key scores in USC's 8-7 sudden-death win over Stanford to claim the MPSF Championship. A 2009 All-American, Kurzeka picked up his first pick as an MPSF Player of the Week this season after helping lead the Trojans to a championship victory at the NorCal Tournament, beating host Cal in the semifinals with four goals from Kurzeka and then taking down UCLA in the final behind three more scores from the junior.
Newcomer Jeremy Davie opens up his USC career with a spot on the All-MPSF Second Team. He's second on the team in scoring so far this year with 40 goals, and has set up the Trojans with countless 6-on-5 opportunities this season thanks to his tireless efforts at the two-meter slot. Davie most recently had a hat trick for the Trojans in their semifinal win over UCLA at the MPSF Tournament. The freshman has scored in 21 games to date, with 13 multiple-goal efforts.
Junior Matt Burton is another of USC's defensive locks who also counters with a dangerous knack for scoring. He also punched in two big goals for the Trojans in their sudden-death win over Stanford last weekend, and is fourth on the team in scoring with 31 goals to date. This All-MPSF Honorable Mention selection is the first of his career as he sets up alongside his fellow juniors Dennerley and Kurzeka as back-to-back national champions looking for their third this weekend.
Freshman Nikola Vavic leads USC in scoring with 45 goals scored in 25 games in his first year as a Trojan. He's now served up at least a pair of big-time game-winning goals, as the freshman lefty ripped in the winner at UCLA during the regular season, and most recently tallied the game-winner vs. Stanford to claim the MPSF crown for the Trojans. Vavic rounds out the All-MPSF honorees with his place on the All-MPSF Honorable Mention list for 2010.
JOVAN AT THE HELM
Jovan Vavic turned a Trojan team that was picked for a fourth-place finish in the MPSF into a tournament champion and the top seed for the 2010 National Collegiate Championships. USC won its seventh MPSF Tournament title this past weekend to improve to 26-2 overall and carry an 11-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament, where the Trojans will make a push for a third consecutive national championship -- a feat accomplished by five other USC teams in history, and last accomplished 30 years ago by women's tennis. Now a nine-time MPSF Coach of the Year after also claiming the award on the women's side last season, Vavic has led the USC men's and women's teams to national championships three times in the same school year (1998-99, 2003-04 and 2009-10). Now in his 16th season with the USC men's program, he carries a 365-61(.857) overall record with the Trojan men into 2010 NCAA action. He is now a six-time MPSF Men's Coach of the Year and has three such honors on the women's side.
The Trojan offense leads the MPSF in averaging 12.86 goals per game, but there's really no one player to point to as USC's go-to guy this year. A program-record 21 different players have gotten to the back of the net this year, and five different players are averaging at least a goal a game. Freshmen Nikola Vavic and Jeremy Davie have combined for 95 goals, with junior Peter Kurzeka at 35 and newcomer Mace Rapsey holding 31 alongside junior Matt Burton. Another newcomer, Tobias Preuss, is next with 26 ahead of returners Michael Rosenthal and Brian Boswell's 25 and 22 goals, respectively, to further highlight USC's overwhelming mix of new and veteran talent.
Opponents got to know USC's newest Trojans pretty quickly this year, and are still hard-pressed to find a way to stop USC's powerful group of newcomers. A set of powerful imports have made splash, as Australians Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey are joined by German Tobias Preuss for their first seasons as Trojans. Cem Carak hails from Turkey and is back from a redshirt season last year. Meanwhile, USC has a powerful blend of true and redshirt freshmen welcomed into the fold. Andy Hayes, Tommy Friedrich and Stephen Siri all redshirted the 2009 season to build up power for 2010. That crew is bolstered by more true freshmen out of the USA -- Rex Butler, Max Hurst-Mendoza, Nikola Vavic and Connor Virjee -- and every new player in the mix this year has scored at least 10 goals for the Trojans to date.
ON THE BOARD
USC's opening weekend was a chance for the Trojan newcomers to make a statement in their debut. Redshirt freshman Stephen Siri led the charge with hat trick to kick off his Trojan career. Also in their first USC action, Tobias Preuss and Mace Rapsey each added a pair, with fellow newcomers Nikola Vavic and Rex Butler also getting in on the scoring action against Redlands. The following day, freshmen Jeremy Davie, Max Hurst-Mendoza and Connor Virjee all notched their first goals as Trojans in the win over Whittier, while redshirt sophomore goalie Jimmy Friedrich saw his first time in the cage after being sidelined by injuries.
BACK IN ACTION
USC returns three players who boast NCAA title-winning experience. All three juniors have known nothing but national championship runs in their time as Trojans. All-American goalie Joel Dennerley also has fellow All-American Peter Kurzeka and their fellow junior Matt Burton back as the backbone of USC roster. It's a young group, but this year's batch of Trojans have already experience USC's winning tradition. Including junior two-time NCAA champs Burton, Dennerley and Kurzeka, USC has Brian Boswell and Michael Rosenthal returning from the Trojans' latest NCAA visit. Goalie Will Simon and field players Zayne Belal, Billy Evashwick, Mason Hawthorne, Forest Monroe, Jon Leopold and Andrew Reego also saw game action in the 2009 regular season and are back in the water for 2010.
The 2009 Trojans claimed back-to-back national championships for the first time in program history with a 7-6 win over UCLA in last season's NCAA title match. The Trojans also made history as the first team ever to make five straight NCAA final appearances on the way to wrapping up the year as champs with a 26-2 overall record. It was USC's 24th NCAA appearance and fifth national championship. Jovan Vavic was named the National Coach of the Year, and senior J.W. Krumpholz was the National Player of the Year as well as the eventual Cutino Award winner for the second straight year. Eight Trojans earned All-American honors, and 19 different players scored on the year. For the fifth straight year, USC led the nation in team defense (5.5 gapg), while the offense averaged 11.3 gpg. All told, USC outscored its opponents 316-154 in 2009.