Three weeks ago, my colleague Keith Demolder wrote a column titled, “Fans should care about the better ’SC football.” In his piece, he focused on how fans are sleeping on USC women’s soccer and that McAlister Field doesn’t see nearly as many fans as it should. While Keith’s column focused solely on women’s soccer, I believe most USC sports do not get the attendance and recognition they deserve.
It’s no question that football is the most watched, anticipated and appreciated sport at USC. We are a football school, after all. The purpose of this column is to not say that USC fans should stop caring about football, but rather that they should also recognize and appreciate the efforts of the other sports.
The most anticipated sports of fall (besides football) include women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s water polo. Yet, the average USC fan does not attend these teams’ matches, and therefore are unaware of their accomplishments and dominance in their respective sport.
Men’s Water Polo
With nine national titles to its name, it’s no doubt that USC men’s water polo is consistently a solid team. The Trojans are led by head coach Jovan Vavic, who also coaches the women’s team. Between his two squads, Vavic has 17 national championships — an unrivaled feat in NCAA history.
The program has only had two losing records in its history (1989 and 1991). In recent years, the team’s record has been nearly perfect each year. This allows the team to be a title contender each season. The Trojans are coming off a 2017 season that ended in a championship loss to UCLA. One of the team’s biggest issues has been closing out seasons. The past four seasons have left the Trojans as a runner-up in the NCAA championship. Regardless, this team will be a championship team and I feel like it’s tough to lose five championships in a row.
Since USC is such a diverse school, I imagine that a significant portion of students come from places where water polo isn’t a popular sport and have never watched a water polo match. Last year I was one of those students. If you have never seen a game, I strongly urge you to attend or watch a game this fall. It’s a fast-paced, strategic and engaging competition.
USC women’s volleyball welcomes back several key returners by the likes of senior libero Victoria Garrick and junior outside hitter Khalia Lanier. Last season the girls were knocked out in the fourth round of regionals. This team is another one of those USC teams that is just consistently good year in, year out.
A lot of the team’s success has been due to the leadership of former head coach Mick Haley. At the end of the 2017 season Haley was fired from USC. His departure came as a shock to volleyball fans as his USC tenure was relatively successful, which saw five national championship appearances from USC.
Former University of Portland coach Brent Crouch is at the helm of the Trojan team this season. Crouch’s history of reviving teams doesn’t necessarily fit the job description for USC volleyball, but it will be interesting to see what he focuses on. The team has already notched some key wins over powerful schools like Kentucky and Florida.
If you had to choose one of these three teams to watch this season, choose the women’s soccer team. Still fresh off a 2016 national title and coming off the back of two .800 seasons, this team is a championship contender. In 2018, they have both brought back and welcomed a slew of talent. This team is solid front to back and left to right. The program boasts a roster that includes four U-20 national players in forwards freshman Penelope Hocking, sophomore Tara McKeown, redshirt sophomore midfielder Savannah DeMelo and freshman defender Ashley Soto.
But women’s soccer isn’t just a good team, they are also a fun team. That comes from the philosophy of the team’s head coach Keidane McAlpine. The team’s motto this year is “trUSt.” It places an emphasis on the intra-team relationships, which ultimately helps the women play so dynamically and consistently rout teams.
Within their first seven games of the season, the Trojans have outscored their opponents 24-3. This team has the talent, willpower and ability to win a title this year.
The three aforementioned teams are each exciting in their own ways. One thing they all share in common is that they are championship contending teams, something USC football unfortunately is not. I’m not insinuating that you can’t call yourself a USC fan if you only watch football, but I am saying that these teams are exciting and that fans and students should watch out for them to make playoff runs this season.
Sam Arslanian is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.