Top-ranked Trojans aim to extend winning streak

The USC men’s water polo team will go back to work this weekend at the NorCal Tournament, looking to extend its win streak past the current mark of 39.

Unstoppable · The Trojans have been ranked No. 1 since Nov. 2011 and are five games away from tying the program record for consecutive wins. -  Daily Trojan file photo

Unstoppable · The Trojans have been ranked No. 1 since Nov. 2011 and are five games away from tying the program record for consecutive wins. – Daily Trojan file photo

The Trojans have won the NorCal Tournament for three consecutive years, but will face some top competition. In fact, every team participating except the junior college addition, Diablo Valley College, is ranked in the top-20 nationally. The Trojans, for their part, are ranked No. 1 in the nation, a position they have astonishingly held since November of 2011.

Looking ahead, if USC were to win their first two games in tournament play, they would most likely face off against the winner of the Pacific/Stanford game, a matchup USC head coach Jovan Vavic definitely has his eye on.

“Pacific is going to be a tough team, and Stanford this summer played very well,” he said. “Both teams are very good.”

While the field certainly will be competitive, the Trojans seem focused on winning the tournament for a fourth straight year.

“We are getting ready to win it,” Vavic said. “Every year it’s very, very tough, but we’ve won it before.”

Though Vavic and his squad might be focused on continuing their NorCal dominance, one thing they are not focused on is the current winning streak they are riding.

“The thing about the streak is you can’t really worry about it,” Vavic said. “We’re more concerned about making it to the NCAA [tournament] and winning the championship. In the process, if we break some records that’s great, but you’d rather lose a couple early than win a lot and lose the last one.”

If the Trojans win all four games this weekend to claim the NorCal Tournament title, they’d be just one short of the program record, which stands at 44 in a row (2005-06). They’d then be in position to tie and surpass the record against Princeton and Whittier, respectively, on Sept. 28 at home at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Senior two-meter Jeremy Davie reiterated the point about the team’s focus on capturing a national championship rather than the means of getting there.

“The winning streak for us isn’t what we’re focused on,” he said. “We’re focused on the end goal of winning the championship at the end of the year.”

Some of the fresh faces who have been asked to step into the rotation more this year could be key components after spending last season on the sidelines or in high school.

“I’m pretty pleased with our guys who didn’t play very much last year and the way they have been playing,” Vavic added.

Davie was even more encouraging in discussing some of the newer additions on the team.

“We’ve got new freshman playing well, proving they can play at this level, and we’ve got other guys who are key contributors to this team,” he added.

Regardless of who has been out in the pool, the Trojans have been continuing on their torrid pace from last year, in their effort to win an awe-inspiring sixth straight title this year.

Earlier on in the season, Vavic and his staff experimented a bit with the rotations, especially in goal, and that trend seems to be continuing. This past weekend at the Inland Empire Classic all three goalkeepers, James Clark, Paul Mitre and Aleck Ryner, manned the cage for a whole game, and each performed impressively.

Also noteworthy is senior standout Nikola Vavic, who, in his final go-round as a Trojan, continues to decorate his already immense legacy within the storied water polo program. He currently stands 18 goals away from being the Trojans’ all-time scoring leader, a number he hopes to shrink this weekend in the Bay Area.

The Trojans will begin play on Saturday at 8 a.m. against Diablo Valley College.