By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two years removed from their last NCAA Final Four appearance, the St. Francis men's water polo team is eager to head back out to the West Coast this weekend.
"I'm pleased with how this season is progressing so far," said Terriers head coach Igor Samardzija as his team prepared to play in the Southern California Tournament at the University of California-Santa Barbara pool at Dos Pueblos High School, beginning with Saturday night's opening match against perennial national powerhouse USC.
"We are trying to incorporate many new faces and have been in a lot of close games," added Samardzija, whose squad is 6-4 on the season. "I expect us to continue to improve and I think the experience we get this weekend can only help us down the line."
Samardzija guided the Terriers to the 2010 Final Four, where they fell to the Trojans, 10-7, before losing the third-place match to Loyola-Marymount, 9-7.
St. Francis, arguably the best program in the Northern Region, also qualified for the Final Four in 2006 under the guidance of former coach and program founder Carl Quigley.
Thus far this year, the Terriers have shaken off a rough start to win five of their last seven contests. A pair of heartbreaking one-goal losses to Brown have prevented them from posting an even more impressive ledger entering this weekend's prestigious tournament, which will also feature potential matches against UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Pacific, Pepperdine, UCSB, UC-Irvine, Loyola-Marymount, UC-Davis, San Diego, Long Beach State, Santa Clara, Princeton and Air Force.
St. Francis will be in one of four brackets in the tourney, battling against the likes of USC, Pacific and Long Beach State.
The Terriers rallied past Iona, 13-12, last Thursday and suffered a 14-9 loss to Brown on Saturday before besting Connecticut College, 16-10, later that same evening.
A strong showing in California should bode well for Samardzija's team as it prepares for November's Northern Division Championships, when yet another Final Four berth will be on the line.
The St. Francis women's volleyball team ended an eight-match losing streak with Tuesday's hard-fought five-set triumph at Fordham University.
Senior setter Naomi Finders racked up 13 kills, 16 assists and 11 digs for a rare triple-double as the Terriers (2-17) posted their first victory since a straight-set win over Saint Peter's College in Brooklyn Heights on Sept. 5.
Junior outside hitter Slavice Stefanovic added 12 kills and 14 digs for St. Francis, which will try to make it two wins in a row at Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday.
The LIU-Brooklyn women's volleyballers improved to 9-7 on Tuesday with a three sets to one non-conference victory over visiting Stony Brook at the Wellness Center.
Sophomore opposite Annika Foit had 15 kills and seven assists for the Blackbirds, who will visit St. Francis at 1 p.m. Sunday on Remsen Street.