Stanford’s Hallock Selected 2018 ACWPC Player of the Year; USC’s Vavic Named 2018 Coach of the Year

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How many All-Americans can be found in this picture?! Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

The 2018 Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Division I All-America selections are now out, and—no surprise–they confirm the strength of the pool of talent at Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

18 members of the big four were among the country’s top 25 selections for First, Second and Third Team All-American: six were Trojans—including two 1st teamers; four were Cardinals—also two first team honorees; four Bruins, again with two top starters; and four Golden Bears, counting a lone First teamer.

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A pair of Vavics meant success in 2018 for USC. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Leading the way as the 2018 ACWPC Player of the Year is Stanford’s Ben Hallock, The red-shirt sophomore—he missed his first year on The Farm because he was representing the U.S. in the Rio Olympics—followed up on his initial campaign as a Cardinal, when he claimed Mountain Pacific Sports Federation 2017 Newcomer of the Year, with a brilliant sophomore campaign. Hallock scored 65 goals to lead his team to its first NCAA final in a decade. In the national championship match, he keyed a ferocious Cardinal comeback, scoring five times in the second half, helping to cut an eight-goal USC lead to two before the Trojans sealed the deal in a 14-12 victory.

For his team’s success in capturing a 10th NCAA title in the past 20 years, USC Head Coach Jovan Vavic captured Coach of the Year honors for the 15th time (9 times for the men; 6 for the women). A stat that is perhaps even more impressive than winning 50% of the men’s titles in the last two decades is that Vavic led his Trojans to their 14th-straight NCAA final, a string of dominance that is unmatched in any other NCAA varsity sport. With his women’s team winning it’s sixth women’s title last may, Vavic swept Coach of the Year honors for the fifth time.

November 29, 2018; Avery Aquatic Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA; Collegiate Water Polo: NCAA Quarter Finals: UCLA vs George Washington University; Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne

Wolf was a stud in 2018 but destiny shone on the Trojans.Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

The 2018 ACWPC First Team was (perhaps) predictable; starting with a par of Bruins who could not overcome their arch-rivals in a thrilling NCAA semifinal match—though it certainly was not the fault of goalie Alex Wolf or attacker Nicholas Saveljic. Now a junior and one of the nation’s top goalies, UCLA’s Wolf was brilliant all season, but no more so than in stopping 16 Trojan shots in an 8-7 loss. Unfortunately, junior Sam Slobodien spoiled Wolf’s performance, slipping the game-winner past the Bruin red-shirt junior with five seconds remaining.

Saveljic had a strong second year in Westwood, leading the Bruins in goals (51); however, the lefty from Montenegro was overshadowed by a lefty sophomore from Croatia. Jacob Mercep, a transfer from San Jose State, led USC with 62 goals and was the pivotal playing for the Trojans in the national championship final, roasting the Cardinal for five scores and taking finals MVP honors.

Joining Hallock as a first-team All-American was Stanford’s Bennett Williams. The junior delivered a virtuoso performance in 2018, scoring 62 times and teaming with Hallock to produce a 21-3 record. A key consideration for Williams was his performance in three matches this season against Southern Cal, where he hit for seven goals, including four in a narrow one goal loss on October 14.

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Hannes Daube is one of the world’s best young players – period! Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

The only freshman on first team was Trojan newcomer Hannes Daube, who was perhaps the most electrifying player in NCAA men’s water polo this fall. His booming shot—in the semifinal against UCLA he hammered home three goals, all of which that Wolf had no chance on—Daube scored 58 times and was a reliable compliment to Mercep and fellow U.S. National Team member Marko Vavic (57 goals), who he pushed to All-American second team.

Rounding out the first team are Cal’s superlative scorer Johnny Hooper and Pacific’s dominant lefty Luke Pavillard. The Australian lefty again led the Tigers in scoring—73 goals and 28 assists for 101 points—and did all he could to get his team to a second-straight NCAA berth; they fell short in a 10-6 loss to Long Beach State in the Golden Coast Conference final, where Pavillard rang up a pair of goals.

At least he has another season to try again for an NCAA title; this season represents the end of the road for the acrobatic Hooper, who scored 49 times in an abbreviated season; the Golden Bear senior answered the siren call of Team USA men’s head coach Dejan Udovicic to compete in an international tournament in Berlin. Cal may have paid a price for their star’s absence, dropping a 15-14 overtime decision to Harvard—the first time the Crimson ever beat a top-three squad.

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Hooper leaves Berkeley as one of Cal’s all-time greats. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

What we’ll all miss most about Hooper’s departure from the college ranks was his incredible athleticism and versatility; when he wasn’t scoring—245 for his Cal career, second all-time to Chris Humbert (296)—the 6-1 attacker was frustrating opposing offenses with 30 steals this season; he leaves Berkeley with over 130 thefts, at the top of Cal’s all-time list.

2018 All-American Second Team:

Nic Porter (Goalie), University of Southern California
Marko Vavic, University of Southern California
Rade Joksimovic, Bucknell University
Austin Stewart, Long Beach State University
Blake Parrish, Stanford University
Ido Goldschmidt, University of California, Davis
Boris Jovanovic, University of California, Santa Barbara
Evan Rosenfeld, University of California, Los Angeles

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Bucknell’s Rade Joksimovic is an All-American for the third straight year. Photo Courtesy: Alan Storey

2018 All-American Third Team:

Oliver Lewis (Goalie), Stanford University
Vassilis Tzavaras, University of California
Safak Simsek, University of California
Zach D’sa, University of Southern California
Matt Maier, University of Southern California
Balazs Kosa, Pepperdine University
Jake Cavano, University of California, Los Angeles
Ege Colak, University of the Pacific