2018 MPSF Invitational: Top Seeds Advance but Pepperdine Looks to Crash the Party

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Not even a trio of Lions can stop Cal's Johnny Hooper. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

Day One at the 2018 Mountain Pacific Invitational saw only one upset—Pepperdine, seeded #10, dispatched seventh-seeded UC San Diego by a score of 10-9—and many impressive individual performances.

Cal’s Johnny Hooper is making up for time lost while playing with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team at the FINA Men’s World Water Polo Cup 2018. In five matches—all wins—the senior from Los Angeles has racked up an impressive 24 goals, including four on Friday against Loyola Marymount, as the #4 Golden Bears topped #13 Lions 17-7. They advance to a meeting at 9:20 a.m. (PST) Saturday morning with #5 UC Santa Barbara, a 12-7 winner over #12 Pomona-Pitzer. The Gauchos got four goals from Boris Jovanovic—who now has 57 on the season—and will need more scoring from him if they are to knock off Cal, which took a 12-9 decision over UC Santa Barbara in early September without Hooper.

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USC Sam Slobodien fights for a goal against Air Force. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Also dropping a four-spot yesterday was Stanford’s Ben Hallock—on the same Team USA Berlin trip as Hooper—in leading the #3 Cardinal to a 19-8 win over #14 San Jose State. Next up for the home team: a noon (PST) match-up against #6 Pacific. The Tigers got a monster six-goal performance from Engin Ege Colak to subdue #11 UC Irvine by a score of 14-11.

The top-seeded Trojans of USC had little difficulty dispatching #16 Air Force, winning 20-6, and increasing their goal differential to an astounding +265 in 20 games. Next up: an 8 a.m. (PST) match with #8 Long Beach State. The 49ers squeaked out a 13-12 win over #9 UC Davis thanks to seven goals by Austin Stewart. #2 UCLA won handily, beating #15 Santa Clara to remain perfect (17-0) on the season. The Bruins will face a dangerous Pepperdine squad, which got four goals from freshman Balazs Kosa to stretch the Waves modest win streak to four.

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UC San Diego’s Skyler Munatones in action against Pepperdine. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Good matchups abound in the loser bracket. San Jose State will face UC Irvine in a match-up of Golden Coast Conference rivals. Pomona-Pitzer will have a touch match against Loyola Marymount; despite a 5-6 record, the Lions have repeatedly been a tough out this season, losing overtime matches to Pepperdine and Cal Baptist. UC Davis will look to get back in the winner’s bracket against Air Force, while UC San Diego will look to rebound against Santa Clara.

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Will UC Santa Barbara’s Boris Jovanovic still be smiling later today? Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Day Two presents the challenge of back-to-back matches; there are sixteen contests over-all, so contenders for top honors will have to find a way to survive both the morning and afternoon sessions. Looking ahead to interesting afternoon match-ups, wins would put MPSF rivals on a collision course, as USC would face Cal, while UCLA would play Stanford, a favorable circumstance for the Cardinal, whose fans are sure to cone out in droves if the Bruins are the opponent.

All results and scoresheets are available at the Mountain Pacific Invitational Central website. The Pac-12 Network will stream both Cardinal matches today as well as the first-, third-, fifth-, and seventh-place games on Sunday; the link for that site is here.