Courtesy: USC Athletics
The USC women’s water polo program has secured three standout signees for 2024-25 with the addition of Ava Knepper, Alma Yaacobi and Sofia Umeda. The trio signed national letters of intent to become Trojans, USC head coach Casey Moon has announced today (Nov. 13).
“The addition of these three young women to our talented core will only make our future brighter at USC,” Moon said of his first signing class as head coach.
Hailing from Laguna Beach High, Ava Knepper has already gained valuable experience as a member of the U.S. Junior National Team. She helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2022 Pan American Junior Championships with six goals in the title match. Knepper also was a key player on the U.S. Youth National Team that won gold at the 2022 FINA Youth World Championship — the USA’s first Youth World title since 2014. This past summer, Knepper made history with SET Water Polo Club by scoring the game-winning goal that led her 18U team to its first Junior Olympics title since 2009.
“Ava is arguably the top attacker/utility player in her class,” Moon said of Knepper. “Her skill set is dynamic, with a nonstop motor. Being a two-way player who is physical and creative makes her extremely special. To compliment her physical toughness, Ava is a great at anticipating the counterattack. Not only does she have speed, she has the ability to create one-on-one with an explosive shot. She is truly a team-first player who always wants her teammates to succeed.”
One of the youngest players on the Israeli National Team, Alma Yaacobi helped Israel to a seventh-place finish at the 2023 Women’s Water Polo World Cup with five goals at the event. After competing for her country at the U20 World Championships in Portugal, Yaacobi will compete in Italy for the club team Plebiscito Padova. The talented 2-meter player attends Hof Hasharon High School in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“Alma is one of the best young center forwards in her age group internationally,” Moon said of Yaacobi. “Her presence in 2-meters will be felt immediately, as her ability to establish position and score is very good. Not only is she a threat from 2-meters, her perimeter shooting ability makes her a very unique offensive player. Having a strong inside-outside presence will help our team instantly. Alma’s experience and maturity as a player will only help and elevate our team culture, as her humbleness and hard work fits great with our team.”
Whittier’s Sofia Umeda is a product of Orange Lutheran High. A utility player,. she brings key international playing experience to USC after stints on the U.S. Cadet National Team. Umeda was also part of the historic SET Water Polo Club Junior Olympics title this past summer alongside Knepper.
“Sofia being a utility/attacker type player helps us immediately as she can play multiple positions,” Moos said of Umeda. “Her ability as a 2-meter defender with post-up shooting skills makes her a dual-threat player that is so valuable in today’s game. Her skill set on offense and as a tough-nosed defender will make an immediate impact on our team. Sofia’s competitive personality fits well with what our team is striving to do daily, and her fight will only strengthen our team.”