A Force In The Water: Moriah Van Norman
April 14, 2005
Shaquille O'Neal has long been known for being the most dominating center in the NBA, but the USC women's water polo team can lay claim to one of the most dominating college two-meter players: Moriah Van Norman. The 6-0 junior out of San Diego has battled through double and triple teams this season after she earned the Peter J. Cutino Award last year as the nation's top collegiate player.
"People are wondering why I'm not scoring as much, but they don't understand that I'm getting covered a lot more than I used to be in the past," said Van Norman.
She is used to the attention by now and simply shrugs off the physical play needed to play the two-meter position now.
"I get punched all the time and my suit gets ripped off now and then," said Van Norman. "That's to be expected so if I couldn't handle it, I shouldn't be playing there."
Van Norman finished second on the team in scoring last season with 58 goals, earning All-America first team honors along with being named as the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year. She earned All-NCAA Tournament first team honors after the Women of Troy went a perfect 29-0 to win the school's second national championship.
During last year's Cutino Award ceremony in San Francisco, Van Norman was the last person to receive the award from Peter J. Cutino, the legendary former coach at Cal. Sadly, Cutino passed away shortly after the ceremony so Van Norman feels a special connection to the award.
"I think it was the most amazing thing that I have ever been a part of to receive an award from a person like Coach Cutino," said Van Norman. "It was something I will always cherish. It was the best topping for the best year."
Being recognized as one of the best is always a wonderful feeling for any athlete, but Van Norman is grounded enough to realize the big picture.
"It's a nice honor, I'm not going to lie," said Van Norman. "I'm happy because I could do it for my family. When I get things like that, it's a thank you to my parents and family. Awards are great, but when it gets down to it winning a championship is what it was about. I'm so grateful because I would not have gotten the award without the help of my teammates. Anyone else on the team could have easily have received the honor, I was just fortunate to get it."
Van Norman says the turning point last season when the team realized they might have a shot at a perfect season came during a conference match in March at Long Beach State.
"I hate to lose," said Van Norman. "When we were in overtime, I said to myself `there is no way we are going to lose'. From that point on, it catapulted our team to a high level."
There is one person that Van Norman appreciates for pushing her: USC head coach Jovan Vavic.
"Jovan is doing a great job with us," said Van Norman. "He is making us tough players not just physically, but on a mental level as well. It's going to come down to that if we are going to win another championship. He is the best coach out there."
The sky is the limit for Van Norman in her future with the Olympics on the possible horizon for her.
"I have my future pretty set because every summer is going to be busy for me," said Van Norman. "I will finish school here and want to be a part of the National Team in hopes of training full time for the Olympics. If my sister is on the team with me in 2012, then I will retire after that."
"Coming here has been the best experience of my life. I am learning this year that I have been given so much and I have to give back to the school. Honestly, I have to give credit to Jovan because he's the best coach and I love him as a player. I owe everything to him."
As a two-meter force, Moriah Van Norman has etched her name as one of the best players in USC women's water polo history, but being a member of the Trojan Family is what makes Van Norman happy. Being the center of attention can sometimes be a welcome proposition.