Aug. 28, 2009

By Amy Farnum

READY TO DEFEND:  An NCAA title is difficult to defend, and a perfect season is even tougher to duplicate, but that's the challenge the University of Southern California men's water polo team will take on this year.

The Trojans, who return 12 players and five All-Americans from last year's 29-0 squad, have been voted to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, and are the top vote-getters in the preseason Collegiate Water Polo poll.

Senior J.W. Krumpholz will once again star on the Trojans' offense after leading USC with 43 goals last year.  The two-meter from Santa Ana, Calif., garnered NCAA and MPSF Tournament Most Valuable Player honors, and was named an All-American for the third time in 2008.  Krumpholz, the only current collegiate athlete on the U.S. Men's National Team roster, competed at the World Championships with Team USA in July.  He was also a member of the 2008 Olympic silver medalist squad last year.

USC starts action at the Triton Invitational beginning Sept. 5.

A CLOSE SECOND:  Stanford challenged USC up to the final moments of the 2008 season, falling to the Trojans, 7-5, in the national championship game, and the Cardinal looks like it will be ready for a battle once again this year.

The Cardinal, ranked No. 2 nationally and in the MFSF, boasts 14 returning letterwinners and four All-Americans, including the 2008 squad's top scorers Drac and Janson Wigo, who each netted 55 goals last year.  Goalkeeper Jimmy Sandman, the 2008 MPSF Co-Player of the Year, is back in front of the net, while two-time All-American senior Sage Wright is sure to play a key role in the Cardinal's bid to return to the NCAA championship game for the 21st time.

Stanford travels across the country to Annapolis, Md., to begin the season at the Navy Tournament on Sept. 5.

THREE-PEAT?  Loyola Marymount is the unanimous favorite to win the Western Water Polo Association championship, grabbing all 12 possible first place votes in the league's preseason coaches' poll.  

The Lions, who won the 2007 and 2008 WWPA titles, will be led by the 2008 WWPA Player of the Year Andy Stevens and returning second-team All-WWPA pick Tibor Forai.   Stevens, a junior goalkeeper, led the nation with 308 saves last year, while Forai paced the Lions with 53 goals in 2008.

No. 6 LMU, which finished last year with its highest final ranking in program history at No. 5, has won six WWPA championships in the last eight years.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: No. 11 Princeton University will make its first appearance on live television as the Tigers' season-opening tilt against third-ranked UCLA will be broadcast on ESPNU on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.

During the 2009 women's water polo season, ESPNU aired the Princeton-Bucknell contest, which was the first water polo contest to ever be shown on any of the ESPN networks.

"We are very excited to be able to showcase our sport, school and venue in this manner," said head coach Luis Nicolao. "We heard such positive feedback from parents, alumni and supporters of our program after the women's game last year and it is great that we will have another opportunity, this time for the men, to play on ESPNU."

The marks the opening to the water polo action at DeNunzio Pool on Princeton's campus, which will host the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships on Dec. 5-6.