Look out, USC. Jovan Vavic is back, and he's got a national champion women's water polo team that's ready to break in their new aquatics center.
In 2013, USC Water Polo continued its dynasty in heart-attack fashion, with the women's team earning the NCAA title in a sudden death OT victory over Stanford followed by the men's team winning its sixth straight championship via an OT victory against Pacific. Now, the women's team opens the season as the top-ranked team in the nation, but with plenty of MPSF rivals waiting for a chance to unseat them.
So far, though, it hasn't happened yet. For the most part, USC breezed through its preseason tournaments at UCSD, Cal Baptist, and UC Irvine, winning by at least five goals in their first eleven games and scoring an average of 17 goals. Yesterday, though, they faced their first true test as they took on their crosstown rival in the finals of the UCI Invitational.
#3 UCLA knocked SC right on its heels from the beginning, scoring the first two goals of the match. Both teams' defenses quickly got settled in, turning the game into a low-scoring affair. USC was able to tie the game at 2-2 by halftime, and after a UCLA goal early in the third, were able to score twice and take a 5-3 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. But in the last two minutes, UCLA struck back, scoring with 1:37 to go and then drawing an exclusion against USC in the final minute. The Bruins scored with the man advantage to force overtime.
By the second half of overtime, USC found themselves down by one goal to the Bruins. That was when Eike Daube, a junior getting her first opportunity at a starting position this season after scoring 23 goals as a sub in 2013, was able to step forward. Daube had already scored 14 goals in this preseason, including three against Cal on Saturday. Against the Bruins, she won the game for SC, landing a cross cage shot and a skip shot in the final minutes of OT to win the game and the tournament.
Next, USC begins MPSF play with a road game against Arizona State on Saturday. The following week, they will play their first game at the newly opened Uytengsu Aquatic Center against Cal State Bakersfield.