STANFORD, Calif., December 4 — As the Stanford men's water polo team prepares to defend its NCAA Championship at its home Avery Aquatic Center here this weekend, the Cardinal will do with star junior driver Tony Azevedo just having won his third-consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year award.
The MPSF announced Azevedo's selection as POTY this afternoon along with releasing the all-league first and second teams. Azevedo has now won the award each of his first three seasons on The Farm, and during his freshman and sophomore years, the Cardinal has gone on to win the NCAA Championship.
Azevedo has also won the NCAA Final Four Player of the Championship his first two seasons and will be bidding for an unprecedented hat trick this weekend when the Cardinal plays Loyola-Marymount — winners of the Western Water Polo Assn. title — in one semifinal match. The other semifinal match features MPSF champion USC taking on the Middies of the U.S. Naval Academy, a team on which SC has an 8-0 edge all-time.
The Trojans defeated Stanford, 8-6, in last Sunday's MPSF championship match at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool and thus won the conferenc title outright. Stanford, USC and UCLA all finished the MPSF regular season with identical 7-1 records but the Trojans were awarded the top seed in the MPSF tourney on the basis of goal differential (1) over the other two schools.
Stanford will be seeking its record-tying 11th NCA Championshp when it takes on Loyola while USC will be after title No. 2. The Trojans won their only crown in 1998, defeating the Cardinal in double-overtime, 10-9, at Newport Harbor High's pool.
A powerful 6-1, 185-pounder with a whiplash for an arm and tremendous strength and pool presence that enables him to evade double- and sometimes even triple teams, Azevedo is the nation's leading scorer for the third-stright season (81 goals) in the Cardinal's 25 games. He scored 10 at the MPSF tourney and was leading scorer there too.
Azevedo has scored 244 goals in his three-year Stanford career with (probably) two games remaining. He will be his team's mainstay in its quest for its first three-peat. Only Cal (all-time leader with 11 championships) has three-peated and the Golden Bears have done it twice. Former Cal coach Pete Cutino, who was the first man ever to win three consecutive championships (mid-'80s), was an interested spectator at last year's NCAA Finals at Loyola where Stanford beat Cal, 7-6, for the title and said at the time that this kid (Azevedo) is definitely one of the best players in the world. Presmably his opinion hasn't changed this season.
USC headman Jovan Vavic was named MPSF Coach of the Year. He led the Trojans to a sparkling 21-3 record, the MPSF title and the top seed in the NCAA Final Four. He was co-coach (along with John williams) when USC won five years ago. The Trojans are 3-0 versus the Cardinal this season, having won the Irvine tournament in September, 10-9, in sudden-victory overtime; then followed with a win at home a month later in their only MPSF matchup, then completed the sweep Sunday at Belmont.
The Trojans are 1-2 against the Cardinal in the NCAA championship, and 1-6 overall. Stanford is 10-6 in title matches.
No non-California school has ever made it into the championship game and Loyola has never won a semifinal match. Nor has Navy.
All-MPSF First Team
Tony Azevedo, Stanford (Player of the Year)
Brett Ormsby, UCLA
Attilla Banhidy, California
Jesse Smith, Pepperdine
Juraj Zatovic, USC
James Shin, USC
Bodizar Damjanovic, USC
All-MPSF Second Team
Mike Derse, Stanford
Chad Taylor, Stanford
Predrag Damjanov, USC
Michael Hausmann, Pepperdine
Rick Merlo, UC Irvine
Will Quist, California
Nathan Allard, Long Beach State
All-MPSF Third Team
Thomas Hopkins, Stanford
Joe Axelrad, UCLA
Brian Alexander, UC Santa Barbara
Dan Noon, UC Irvine
Gadi Hadar, USC
Michael March, UCLA
Eddie Wisniewski, Pacific