2018 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Matches on Tap Today: UCSD Vs. Long Beach State; UCLA Vs. George Washington

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Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center is ready for its big moment. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

The 2018 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Tournament has moved to Palo Alto, California for games starting this afternoon—and the two quarterfinal matches will be streamed live on the Pac-12 Network.

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This is awesome news for those of us who cannot be at Stanford for a 4 p.m. EST match between Long Beach State (13-11; champions of the Golden Coast Conference) and UC San Diego (19-5; champions of the Western Water Polo Association) or a 5:45 p.m. EST match between UCLA (22-4; at-large NCAA berth) and George Washington (23-6; champions of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference).

To watch either of these matches live, please go to this link for the Pac-12 Network

The venue, Avery Aquatic Center, is among the country’s finest, so these match-ups will be as good as it gets for conditions and audience. For the programs, the contrasts could not be more pronounced. UC San Diego, under Head Coach Denny Harper, has enjoyed a remarkable year, twice beating top WWPA rival UC Davis—including when it counted most: in the WWPA title match. Led by Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt and Skyler Munatones, the Tritons earned a bye into the NCAA quarterfinals so have had two weeks to rest-up.

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Skyler Munatones. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Long Beach State endured a tough stretch in the middle of the season, when the 49ers dropped five straight, but Head Coach Gavin Arroyo righted the ship at the perfect time. His team, led by seniors Austin Stewart and Keegan Wicken as well as newcomer Garrett Zaan, has peeled off seven straight wins, including a first round dismantling of Pomona-Pitzer by the score of 12-5.

According to Steven Munatones, a keen observer of the sport since his playing days at Harvard in the 80s, both match-ups have much to offer in terms of competition and intrigue.

“Long Beach State can return to its previous level with a win vs. UCSD and a good showing vs. Stanford,” Munatones wrote in a recent email. “ UCSD can set the stage for its elevation to Division I with a win vs. Long Beach State.”

Spoiler alert: Munatone’s son Sklyer is a key contributor for the Tritons BUT he’s clearly not engaging in self-interest. This should be a great battle between too evenly-matched teams; one consideration: UC San Diego is the last non-MPSF team to make it to an NCAA final, when they beat USC in 2000. Today’s match may springboard the Tritons back into contention as the nation’s best.

Speaking about the evening’s match-up between the Bruins—defending national champions—and the Colonials, who last week won their first-ever NCAA men’s water polo tournament match, Munatones saw a silver lining no matter what the score.

“GW can attract more players and attention in the short- and long-term with a good showing vs. UCLA.”

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A dip to remember! George Washington bets Princeton in NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Gloria Kushel

The Colonials features Atakan Destici and Andrew Mavis, who have combined this season for 164 goals. Head Coach Barry King’s squad has enjoyed a great run in 2018 and hope to hang tough with UCLA, which features a host of top goal scorers, including Nicolas Saveljic, Quinten Osborne and Ashworth Molthen.

But offense is not likely what will decide this match; it will be on the long arms of Bruin goalie Alex Wolf, generally considered the nation’s best collegiate goalie.

Waiting in the wings are top seed Stanford, who will play the UCSD / LBS winner, and #2 USC, which gets the UCLA / GW victor. The semifinals will be held on Saturday and will also be streamed by Pac-12 Network.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.