Feb. 5, 1997
Women's Water Polo 1997 Season Outlook
The 1997 USC women's water polo team, in just its third year of existence and second year at the Division I level, may still have some catching up to do to its more experienced counterparts across the country. But the team is getting closer, and the Women of Troy stand poised for a breakout year.
The reasons are many why USC should improve upon last year's 10-18 record (13-19-1 overall and 0-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation). Nearly all of the veterans -- many of whom only began playing water polo in the last few years -- return from the 1996 roster and are a year older, more knowledgable and experienced. A solid group of freshmen and transfers will give the Women of Troy enough depth to truly compete for the first time. And one of those transfers is Bernice Orwig, a goalie from Cypress Junior College who is on the U.S. National B team. USC Coach Jovan Vavic believes she could be one of collegiate water polo's top goalies right away.
"We finally have enough talent to compete," said Vavic, who is in his third season as head coach and has a record of 28-31. "I don't think we'll go into any games and not have a chance. In the past there were games where I couldn't say we had a chance because the other teams' talent made it impossible. But this year I think we have a shot at everybody, and that's all you can ask for."
The top 7 scorers from last season return in 1997, including senior 2-meter player Christina McCall, the team's MVP in each of the last 2 seasons and a 53-goal scorer in 1996; senior 2-meter player and driver Cindy Clarke, who was named second team All-MPSF after scoring 38 goals in 1996 and the team co-MVP in 1995; senior driver Catherine Rau, the team captain for each of the last 2 years; and senior driver Kristie Cissell, who scored 32 goals in 1995.
"Catherine was injured for part of last season and it hurt us when she wasn't in the lineup," said Vavic, who is assisted by Sasha Bucur. "She'll be back, and so are several other talented players who will help us again this season. Christina has been the backbone of this team, and Cindy and Kristie are very good scorers."
Other veteran field players include junior driver Miranda Lim (14 goals in 1996), junior 2-meter player and driver Jennifer Simpson (10) and sophomore driver Elizabeth Atondo (5).
Another experienced player who will be joining the team is sophomore driver Kellie Clarke, who is Cindy Clarke's sister and a transfer from San Diego State, where she scored 13 goals as a 1996 freshman.
A group of 5 freshmen field players -- 2-meter players Jacqueline Favreau and Selah Mapes and drivers Kim Juran, Maile Lau and Nicole Martin -- should also help improve Troy's fortunes.
In the cage, Orwig is joined by returning sophomore Christine Holler.
"Having Bernice in the cage will make a huge difference," Vavic said. "She is going to make our defense so much better. She's a great passer, so the defensive fast break will be better. Our overall game will be 100 percent improved because of her and because of our increased depth."
It all makes for a combination that Vavic hopes will launch USC toward the top of the national rankings in 1997.
"The rankings are a big question mark because I don't know how much the other teams have improved," Vavic said. "If everything stayed the same as it was last season, I think we would probably be in the top 5. As it is, I think there's a chance that we can still improve to the point where we are in the top 5."