The USC men’s water polo team has waited patiently. Now the time has come to defend its water polo title. The journey begins this weekend at the UCLA Invitational, which will serve as an opportunity for the team to get into midseason form as quickly as possible.
“We feel very good,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “We have had a very productive and good training, and I think the guys are very anxious and excited about starting to play finally.”
The biggest storyline of the offseason has revolved around who will replace departed star goalkeeper Joel Dennerly, and though the season is finally set to begin, Vavic still has yet to officially name a starter, and might not do so anytime soon.
“Our team doesn’t really have starting positions; we have guys who play and guys who don’t play,” Vavic said. “So both of our goalies are going to play. We’re going to have [redshirt sophomore] Ely [Bonilla] and [junior] James [Clark] compete for the playing time.”
When asked if there was any timetable on how long the two would share playing time, Vavic made it clear there was no rush to anoint a main goalie just yet.
“It’s hard to say right now,” Vavic said. I would say that they are both good enough so we can play both of them against any opponent and then we adjust.” Regardless of when, or if, a decision is made, USC opens its season with a doubleheader against the University of La Verne and Pomona-Pitzer College, followed by scrimmages against tougher foes Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Chapman and UCLA.USC has defeated UCLA each of the last two seasons for the national championship.
“We’ve been looking forward to [the first game] all summer,” senior driver Michael Rosenthal said. “It’s a lot of fun playing in real games and we can’t wait for the season to start.”
In addition to breaking in a pair of new goalies, the rest of the squad plans to focus on helping Bonilla and Clark adapt to their potential starting roles.
“We always try to work on defense,” Rosenthal said. “These scrimmages are a good chance for us to see our opponent and see how they’re going to play against us.”
The team will also use the invitational as an opportunity to incorporate as many players as possible into the lineup.
“We’re going to try some different things,” Vavic said. “We’re going to play as many players as we can, and give everybody an opportunity to show what they can do and get ready for some of the more important and tougher games.”