Water Polo

USC water polo players are in the midst of the action at the 2020 Olympics

Sixteen past and present Trojans will represent six different nations in Tokyo.

After a year that saw the USC women’s water polo team win an NCAA Championship and the men’s water polo team come in second, several USC water polo players will have the opportunity to compete for an even greater prize: an Olympic medal.

Sixteen current and former Trojans will bring their talents to the pool in Tokyo, including 11 first-time Olympians and a program-record 10 women. Together, they boast a whopping 20 NCAA Championship rings.

“It’s great to see that so many of our Trojans made their Olympic teams,” USC head coach Marko Pintaric said in a statement. “We have supported our athletes who want to pursue their dreams, and we are really happy and proud of all of them. This is exactly what this USC program stands for — to combine great academics and athletics first and then try to work on helping our athletes to achieve their Olympic dreams.”

On the women’s side, four Trojans made the star-studded American roster that is favored to win gold this year. The United States women’s water polo team hasn’t lost a match in Olympic play since 2008 and is the only team to earn a medal in each Olympics since the sport was introduced to the Games in 2000.

Kaleigh Gilchrist, who was on USC’s 2013 NCAA Championship team and doubles as a professional surfer, is appearing in her second Games with the U.S., while goalkeeper Amanda Longan and attackers Paige Hauschild and Stephania Haralabidis will get their first shot on the world’s biggest stage. A First Team All-American, Hauschild took both the 2020 and 2021 seasons off from collegiate water polo to train with the national team.

Australian Tilly Kearns also spent two seasons away from USC in preparation for the Games. Kearns, who stood out with 29 goals as a true freshman in 2019, is notorious for not only her play but also her recent viral TikTok videos that bring viewers behind the scenes in Tokyo.

Maud Megens, who was named the 2021 National Player of the Year after leading the Trojans to the national title, will be another first-time Olympian to watch. She follows in the footsteps of her mother Patricia, who competed for the Dutch National Team in the 2000 Olympics. The Netherlands did not qualify for the 2016 Games, but they could make a surprising splash in the bronze medal race.

In the men’s game, eyes will be trained on Marko Vavic with Team USA. Marko is the son of former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who was indicted in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal. After scoring 108 goals during his first two seasons as a Trojan and winning the national title in 2018, Vavic was told by USC that he was ineligible to play amid an investigation into a potential infraction, according to The Associated Press.

Marko currently plays for the Italian team Roma Nuoto and hasn’t suited up for the Trojans in two years, so it will be interesting to see if he is as dominant on the international stage as he was at USC. Vavic and junior Hannes Daube are two of six Olympic rookies that headline a promising U.S. squad vying to capture its first medal in 13 years.

The women’s water polo preliminary round begins Friday with Japan vs. United States at 10 p.m. and Canada vs. Australia at 11:30 p.m. Four Trojans will appear in each of those games.

The men’s competition begins Saturday with Daube, Vavic and the rest of the U.S. squad taking on Japan at 10:10 p.m. Australia and Montenegro will face off at 11:30 p.m. with three Trojans on the Australian side.