Southern California dreaming
Season Preview: Trojans seek sixth consecutive title
Last season, No. 1 Southern California finished the year with an unprecedented fifth consecutive national title by defeating UCLA 11-10 in the final minute of play. This year, the No. 2 Bruins will seek revenge, with California, Stanford, and Long Beach State close behind.
The defenders of five consecutive NCAA titles will begin their 2013 campaign at the top once again. Southern California rolled undefeated through its 2012 campaign, going on to claim its eighth overall national championship.
The Trojans graduated five members of that 2012 team, but National Player of the Year Nikola Vavic leads a group of five All-Americans, including four of its top-five scorers from last season.
All-Americans James Clark and Kostas Genidounias return from international waters having competed at the FINA World Championships this past summer, rejoining fellow All-Americans Jeremy Davie and Mace Rapsey as an experienced and savvy corps of talent for the season to come.
In all, Southern Calfornia brings back nine Trojans who scored at least 10 goals last season. Eleven-time National Coach of the Year Jovan Vavic is at the helm once again, preparing for another competitive season. The Trojans hauled in 100 points in the national preseason poll to take the lead entering 2013.
UCLA lost its top-two scorers in Josh Samuels (Cutino Award Finalist and first team All-American and All-MPSF player in 2012) and Griffin White (second team All-American in 2012), as well as its starting goalkeeper in Matt Rapacz (second team All-American and All-MPSF in 2012) to graduation in 2012.
The Bruins went 28-5 overall and 7-1 in the MPSF, advancing to the NCAA championship game for the second consecutive year in 2012.
The Bruins return four starters in 2013, including junior attacker Paul Reynolds, who finished third on the team in scoring with 44 goals (1.33 gpg) last season, which ranked 22nd in the MPSF.
Reynolds was a second team All-MPSF selection in 2012 and was an honorable mention All-American in 2011. He also ranked second on the team in assists (46) and steals (35) last year.
Opening weekend to the 2013 season is September 7-8, as the Bruins host the UCLA Invitational in Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday, and then head to San Diego for the Triton Invitational on Sunday.
Last season, California rattled off seven consecutive wins at the end of the year – including defeating the No. 2-ranked Bruins 12-9 in the MPSF Tournament semifinal – before falling to USC 9-5 to end the 2012 campaign 17-8.
Cal features five returning All-Americans for the 2013 season – first-team selection Collin Smith, second-team pick Aleksa Saponjic, and honorable mentions Hunter Gettelfinger, Jon Sibley and Colin Mulcahy.
Smith, the team captain for the 2013 campaign, led the Bears in scoring last year with 61 goals, twice earning MPSF Player of the Week honors. Saponjic was second on the team in scoring in 2012 with 45 goals after helping Serbia capture a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Cardinal boasts four returning All-Americans from a season ago on its 2013 roster in junior utility Alex Bowen, sophomore driver Bret Bonanni, redshirt senior two-meter Forrest Watkins and freshman driver BJ Churnside. Bonanni led the team with 73 goals in 2012 followed by Bowen, who netted 64.
In goal Scott Platshon returns as the team's No. 1, while Conner Cleary returns in a two-meter role and driver Paul Rudolph aims to return after sitting out the entire 2012 campaign due to injury.
Along with a 12-man incoming freshman class that includes USA Junior National Team member Jackson Kimbell and fellow USA Water Polo participants Reid Chase and Connor Stapleton, the Cardinal will also debut a quartet of redshirt freshmen in USA Junior National Team member Adam Abdulhamid, Troy Barnhart, Griffin Bolan and Adam Warmoth.
After posting a 24-8 overall record and a fifth place finish one season ago, Long Beach State looks to return to top form.
The 49ers return eight of their top-10 goal-scorers from one season ago, including All-Americans Dan Matulis and Nick Rascon as Long Beach State will look to continue to improve after a tremendous 2012 campaign where the team finished the season ranked No. 5 in the country.
Junior Dan Matulis earned second-team All-MPSF honors while five other 49ers earned All-MPSF Honorable Mention. Matulis claimed his first second-team All-MPSF award having led the 49ers in scoring with 69 on the season.