It has been quite a three-month stretch for USC head coach Jovan Vavic. In December, he led USC’s men’s squad to a fifth consecutive NCAA championship. He followed that up by taking over the United States Men’s National team on an interim basis and earned a second-place finish at the World Championships qualifying tournament, which meant that the U.S. would take part in the upcoming World Championships. He topped that off with an impressive victory as his USC Trojans toppled then-No. 1 Stanford 13-10 at the UCI Invitational.
Entering this season, defending NCAA champion Stanford was the overwhelming favorite as the Cardinal boasted three members of the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist U.S. women’s team, which included FINA Women’s Player of the Year Maggie Steffens. Think the Miami Heat in basketball. That was the buzz that the Stanford women were receiving. Below Vavic discusses his team and their national championship chances.
Stanford, with its three Olympians, was thought to be a favorite entering this season. People were already crowning them as one of the great water polo teams in NCAA history. Your squad took them down 13-10 at the UCI Invitational. Can you tell us about that win and what you did well?
Vavic: We did not play great. We gave up 10 goals so the defense was not good. Thankfully the offense was great as we had some nice shooting percentages in that game. We also have two Olympians and multiple Junior National team players who will be future Olympians. The ball is round and anytime we jump in the pool we believe that we have a chance to win.
What does USC have to do to win NCAAs?
Vavic: We have a good goalie, four to five two-meter defenders and three two-meter offensive players so we have the tools, we just need to peak at the right time. Nobody thought the Baltimore Ravens would win the Super Bowl, but they peaked at the right time and won it. Our players just need to believe in the system.
Anni Espar is a newcomer that has been an outstanding starter the season. What makes her the top-notch player that she is?
Vavic: Anni is a complete player. She is great on both offense and defense and can both pass and shoot the ball. Anni is explosive, fast and the ultimate team player.
Your daughter, Monika Vavic, has also been tremendous this season as she is leading your team in scoring. Can you tell us about her growth and what makes her the great player that she is?
Vavic: Monika just turned 19 last week. She actually graduated a year early from high school and could not play water polo that last year of high school. Monika has been playing water polo all her life and is maturing as a player. She is getting better and it helps that she has had a full year of conditioning. It is no surprise to me that she is scoring goals. Now we just need to make sure she does the other things.