One week ago, Jovan Vavic and his USC water polo team entered the MPSF tournament as the #4 seed. It may have been possible to ride their past success to an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, but with three losses to top championship contenders on their record, they couldn't take that chance. So the Trojans entered the tournament with the mentality that they needed to win the conference to have a shot at continuing their dynasty, and they ended up giving their best performance of the season.
Now, after defeating Cal, Pacific, and Stanford to win the MPSF tournament and clinch the top seed in the NCAA tournament, the Trojans (27-4) defeated St. Francis N.Y. 10-3 and are now one win away from their sixth consecutive national championship. Standing in their way is this season's dark horse, the Pacific Tigers, who defeated Stanford in their home pool in the NCAA semifinals to advance to their first ever NCAA championship game.
On November 9, USC lost a road game to Pacific 10-6, allowing Pacific to take the #1 ranking. In that defeat, USC posted the fewest goals in a game since October 2, 2011, and it catapulted the Tigers from conference bottom feeder to sudden contender. Then, last week, USC and Pacific had their rematch in the MPSF semifinals on the UoP campus. The Trojans had difficulty the first time around getting past the Tigers' senior goalie Alex Malkis, who made 16 saves. But in the rematch, USC's offense was as dominant as it has ever been, getting goals from ten different players to win by a score of 18-13. USC then took on Stanford, a team that had taken them to overtime twice this year, in the conference final. The Cardinal tried to come back late, but USC held at least a two-goal lead for the entire second half and took home the MPSF trophy with a 10-8 win.
As USC prepares to compete in their ninth consecutive national championship game, they will need to once again call on that postseason fire that has allowed them to easily defeat opponents that once gave them grief. Nikola Vavic will be playing his final game as a Trojan, leaving with a legacy that is just as decorated as his father's. With 250 goals, he holds the school record for most career goals and is a candidate to win National Player Of The Year honors for the second straight time. For Jovan Vavic, a win today would give him his 13th NCAA title as USC's water polo coach, nine with the men's team and four with the women's team. That would make Vavic the most decorated coach in the 125-year history of USC Athletics, passing the 12 track & field championships won by the legendary Dean Cromwell.
The game starts at 3 PM PT and will stream on NCAA.com. Check back to this page for live updates.