Vavic talks upholding Trojan dynasty
Incoming talent could make record five-in-a-row title run
USC is led by head coach Jovan Vavic, 10-time coach of the year and one of the sharpest minds in water polo. Since Vavic arrived at USC, he has brought home 10 national championships, seven on the men’s side and three with the women's team. This season, the USC Trojans embark on a campaign that could lead to an unprecedented fifth consecutive national championship.
USC is once again loaded with talent as they return a number of key contributors from last year’s squad that defeated UCLA 7-4 to win the program’s seventh national crown. While USC lost national player of the year and Olympic goalie Joel Dennerley along with world-class player Peter Kurzeka, they return a deep roster bulked up with 10 new recruits.
USC alum Joel Dennerley just had an outstanding Olympics for Australia and Shea Buckner also played very well for the United States. How did their time as Trojans prepare them for the international stage?
Vavic: It is really very simple. Our guys put in the time as they train long hours. We work hard and we love to work hard. We also have an outstanding assistant coaching staff that works with all of the players.
Jeremy Davie, another Australian, was an All-American and has been an outstanding player for your squad. What skills does he bring to the team this season?
Vavic: Both Australians, Davie and Mace Rapsey have been great for us. Jeremy gets more attention because he plays two-meter, however Mace Rapsey played a big role last season for us when Matt Burton got injured and he had to play two-meter defense. Jeremy is tough to defend one on one, he is explosive and he knows how to put the ball in the cage. Mace is very strong and is one of the best athletes on our team.Your son, Nikola Vavic, is one of the best left-handers in the entire country and one of NCAA.com's players to watch this season. What do you see in him as his coach?
Vavic: Nikola has played for many years and has seen our teams play since he was seven years old. He knows our system and the game of water polo. He can both pass and finish and he is an excellent driver. His best quality is his unselfishness as he always looks to make the right pass.
Joel Dennerley was a dominant goalie the past four seasons for USC. With him graduated, can you tell us about the race to replace him in the cage?
Vavic: Ely Bonilla is in his third year with the program and has improved every season since he has been here. Aleck Ryner has played very well for us over the summer. We also have a freshman named James Clark. He played in the past Olympics for Australia with Joel Dennerley and we think he can be very good for us. He's an exceptional goalie who is actually taller and longer than Joel. He's very hard to score on because he's huge in the cage. He has good work ethic and is very mentally tough. He's going to be an impact player in the NCAA immediately.
USC athletic department contributed to this report.