Four teams ready to challenge
Three teams want to end USC's championship run
Will USC win a fourth consecutive NCAA title? There are three squads trying to wrest that crown from the Trojans and they include USC’s most storied rival, a coaching legend making his return to water polo’s grandest stage and an Ivy League school making its second trip in three years.
No. 1 USC vs. No. 14 Princeton
The main reason for USC’s success is the overall quality of their squad. There are four to five teams that boast starting lineups that are on par with the Trojans; however it is USC’s numbers that overwhelm the opposition. No team in the country has the depth and the variety of weapons that the Trojans field. USC had eleven players who scored ten or more goals on the season. Their four primary scorers are Peter Kurzeka, lefty Nikola Vavic, two-meter Jeremy Davie and Kostas Genidounias. Kurzeka has been a starter on USC’s previous three NCAA Championship squads and will be looking to make it a clean sweep for his college career. Genidounias is someone to keep an eye on as well as he is an electric player who has spent time with the Greek National team.
Princeton has a balanced attack as Matt Weber, Drew Hoffenberg, Tim Wenzlau, Kayj Shannon, Thomas Nelson and Mike Helou all had over twenty goals on the campaign. Drew Hoffenberg and Kayj Shannon are particularly intriguing as they are both very talented freshmen. Hoffenberg won Eastern Tournament MVP honors as he scored forty-three goals and had a team-high thirty-one assists while Shannon scored thirty-eight goals on the campaign and earned first-team All-CWPA South honors in the process.
All Joel Dennerley has done is win NCAA championships. The Australian National team goalie has been the centerpiece of USC’s defense for their past three NCAA titles. The easiest prediction to make for this weekend is that he will show up and play well.
Ben Dearborn notched fourteen saves in Princeton’s victory over Navy in the CWPA Championship game and earned first-team All-Tournament honors for those efforts. For Princeton to have any chance at upsetting the Trojans, Dearborn will need to be electric.
USC has won three consecutive NCAA Championships and they are primed to win a fourth. The Trojans boast championship experience and a brilliant tactical mind in Head Coach Jovan Vavic. Many of Princeton’s players were on the squad that finished third place at NCAAs in 2009. That experience will help them this weekend.
No. 2 UCLA versus No. 10 UC San Diego
UCLA is coming off a monster 10-9 triple overtime win over USC in the MPSF Championship game. On offense, the Bruins have four potent scorers in Josh Samuels, Griffin White, Paul Reynolds and Brett Hays. Samuels and White each had over forty goals and are a threat to score from anywhere. While Cullen Hennessy is not one of UCLA’s top four scorers, the senior is one of their best players as he leads the team in assists and is their best perimeter defender.
UC San Diego is spearheaded by John Butler, Graham Saber and Brian Donahoe. Butler earned first-team All-WWPA honors this year as he notched twenty-nine goals and thirty-eight assists. Graham Saber was a second-team All-WWPA pick and UCSD’s leading scorer with seventy goals. Donahoe is an outstanding defender who garnered second-team All-WWPA honors this past season to add to the All-American honors he earned last fall.