USC's Espar makes a splash in debut
Anni Espar adjusts to college life after international play
Anni Espar has already made a huge splash in her debut season as a member of the USC women's water polo team. She is one of the best water polo players in the world and has been in dominant form for the undefeated Trojans.
As one of two Olympians on this year's team, Espar not only played in the London Games, but won a silver medal with her Spanish team and was the second-leading goal scorer in the event.
"It was an amazing experience. It was the first time the Spanish National Women's Water Polo Team had played in the Olympics, so it was really special. I've played in other world championships but it's just not the same thing. We lived with all the other Spanish athletes. We got to meet Pau Gasol. It was great," Espar said.
Along with her success at the Games, Espar has a long list of accomplishments and accolades all achieved before her 20th birthday. She was named the European Women's Water Polo Player of the Year in 2012, won gold at both the 2011 European Cup with the Spanish National Team and with Spain's FINA Junior World Championship Team the same year.
Finally back from international play, she was named the MPSF Player of the Week last week, after scoring 10 goals in her first major tournament as a Trojan. Three of her goals came in an 11-10 win against UCLA in the semifinals. She punched in four more later that day in the Trojans' upset against No. 1 Stanford.
Espar says the adjustment from Spain to Los Angeles has been a little weird. Along with many of her fellow classmates, it's her first time on her own. She's learning to cook for herself, remembering to do laundry, and adjusting to life far away from her family, but the team has made it easy to adapt by being so supportive. And, she has already learned a lot from coach Jovan Vavic, an 11-time National Coach of the Year.
"I like the way he coaches because he hates losing and I hate losing," Espar said. "When coaches are like that, when they can't stand losing a game, it's really motivating to keep working hard."
With so many accomplishments already checked off her list, one may wonder what else she hopes to achieve.
"When I was younger my goal was to be in the Olympics. Now that I've done that, my goal is to win the gold medal. I don't want to quit water polo until I win the gold medal. So I don't care what I have to do, I will do it," Espar said.
Espar believes there is still much work to be done, but also has faith that this team can accomplish anything together.
"I am really self-demanding. I love improving and I love being corrected," Espar said. "I have a lot of things to improve and that's one of the reasons I am here. I am a perfectionist, I want to improve in everything I can. I think as a team, if we keep working and keep playing the way we are then we can have a great season and be in the finals in May."
On Saturday, in its first MPSF matchup of the season, top-ranked USC defeated No. 5 California 10-5 to remain perfect on the season.