Will any team dethrone Southern Cal this year?
Many observers will look to the other three teams that comprise the “Big Four” (California, UCLA, and Stanford), and those squads will be strong. The key for each will be replacing graduated parts.
Cal brings back 2010 Cutino Award winner Ivan Rackov, dangerous lefty Luka Saponjic and U.S. Junior National team goalie Justin Parsons. However, they lost two-meter Zach White and two-meter defender Brian Dudley. White’s loss will be felt as it was his inside presence that generated numerous scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
UCLA will once again be stout as the Bruins bring back a lineup that will be spearheaded by All-Americans Josh Samuels and Cristiano Mirarchi along with All-MPSF performer Cullen Hennessy. UCLA did graduate two All-Americans in lefty Ben Hohl and two-meter Jacob Murphy. Both of those players will be missed as Hohl was a devastating outside shooter while Murphy was outstanding at earning power plays for the Bruins.
Stanford graduated two All-Americans in Sage Wright and Jeffrey Schwimer and will be retooling around All-American Jacob Smith and a couple of U.S. Junior National teamers in Paul Rudolph and Nick Hoversten. Hoversten is somebody to really keep an eye on as the redshirt freshman was thought by many to be the best recruit in the Class of 2010.
The biggest potential threat to the Trojans quietly lurks in the San Joaquin Valley.
Pacific is absolutely loaded heading into this season as the Tigers are returning Cutino Award nominee Goran Tomasevic, two other All-Americans in Balazs Erdelyi and Alex Malkis along with the underrated Tom Koning.
Tomasevic and Erdelyi are arguably the most talented inside-outside combination in the country. Tomasevic’s growth from freshman year to sophomore year was off the charts and this junior from Croatia is an absolute load in two-meter. Erdelyi was already one of the five most talented players in the country last season and this Hungarian should only improve in his second year playing the collegiate game. The key for Pacific will be developing one more outside scorer to replace the production they lost from the graduated Joey Gullikson.
|• CWPA Rankings|
|• Q&A: USC head coach Vavic|
The MPSF conference is the home of the vast majority of the nation’s top 10 teams. However, the WWPA and CWPA champions also receive NCAA championship bids. Loyola Marymount has dominated the WWPA the past four seasons; however this could be the year the Lions struggle to make a return trip to the tournament. Loyola Marymount lost U.S. Senior National team goalie Andy Stevens along with cornerstone field players in Tibor Forai and Andrew Aki to graduation. Meanwhile, UC Davis returns a number of key contributors with two-meter Aaron Salit being the headliner. Salit is a 6’5”, 230-pound truck in two-meter and his presence means that the Aggies will be seeing a steady diet of zone defenses all season. UC San Diego will also be a factor as the Tritons return All-Americans Brian Donahoe and goalie David Morton for another campaign.
It would be surprising if any team other than St. Francis won the CWPA championship. St. Francis acquitted itself nicely against USC in their national semifinal matchup and return a majority of talent from last year’s team including Marko Gencic, Bosko Stankovic, Filip Sasic, Richard Polgar and goalie Igor Mladenovic.
Princeton, Navy and Brown will provide the stiffest challenge to the Terriers. Princeton returns All-CWPA performers Tommy Donahue and Chris Cottrell along with CWPA South Rookie of the Year Kurt Buchbinder. However, the Tigers will have a gaping hole to replace in the cage with the graduation of All-American Mike Merlone. Navy will be a factor in the East as the Midshipmen bring back a number of proven performers in Stevie Ray, Conor Handley and Kyle Wertz. Brown will also carry title hopes as they return an outstanding one-two punch in CWPA North Player of the Year Svetozar Stefanovic and CWPA All-North performer and former U.S. Junior National teamer James MacNamara.