On paper, the talent of both teams were just about even. Last season, in the midst of a monsoon, California and USC engaged in an NCAA championship encounter for the ages. It was a battle between equals that needed overtime to settle. In the end, USC’s depth emerged victorious in the 12-10 classic. With that game as the backdrop, the second-ranked Golden Bears enter this season looking to avenge that heartbreak and win an NCAA-record 14th championship.
Head coach Kirk Everist recently discussed California and their title hopes. Everist is no stranger to winning championships as he led Cal to back to back titles in 2006 and ’07. In his eight years with the Golden Bears, he also has won two MPSF crowns and produced 38 All-Americans.
What does California need to do to win the NCAA championship this year?
Everist: We have got to answer some questions at the center position. Losing Zach White and Brian Dudley was a big deal. They were both tremendous players. We may play a little differently this year without having them. We do feel like we have the players to fill their spots between the older players on our roster and the guys we have coming in.
Last season Zach White was really vital for your squad. He created loads of opportunities for himself and the players around him. Who are the candidates to replace him?
Everist: We are looking at four guys. Marin Balarin from Berkeley High has gone position to position for us. We moved him to center and he had a really great summer. Jack Stampfl from Davis High was our secondary center last year and he led our team in ejections drawn per minute. Iosefa Tuiasau is a junior college player from New Zealand who redshirted for us last year and he is battling for minutes. Ayal Keren, who is from Israel and was the junior college player of the year, will be in the mix. While he is not a true center, he would be just fine at the college level.
Ivan Rackov won the Cutino Award last season and is outstanding. What makes him a special player?
Everist: Ivan is tremendously smart. He shows that you do not have to be 210 pounds to survive in college. He is 180 pounds now, but he probably played in last year’s NCAA championship game at 168 pounds. He is one of the most intelligent players I have ever seen at the college level. He is one, two, three steps ahead of most college players and goalies. He is skilled with a great shot and he is up there with any perimeter player I have seen in college.
• Q&A: USC head coach Jovan Vavic