2019 MPSF Invitational @ UCLA and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles

December 1, 2018; , Palo Alto, CA, USA; Collegiate Men's Water Polo:NCAA Semi Finals: USC vs UCLA; USC 2 Meter Sam Slobodien after scoring the game winning goal Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne
Always great when USC and UCLA meet up—and it can happen again in the final of the 2019 MPSF Invite. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Starting today is the most important of the non-conference men’s water polo tournaments: the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational. Or, if you like, the Socal Invitational, as UCLA—one of two hosts for the tournament—has it listed on it’s website.

mpsf-shield-finalThis year’s MPSF Invite will include 14 of the country’s top 20 teams—including the best 11—among the 16 squads in the tournament. Play is set to begin at 1 p.m. PST, with host UCLA facing Pomona-Pitzer at the Spieker Aquatics Center, and Stanford playing Air Force at Loyola Marymount’s Burns’ Center. In all, there will be 32 games over three days; whoever wins this weekend can make a legitimate claim to being the nation’s top team, as this is tournament truly collects the nation’s best.

There are no live streams available of the action; live stats are available on the UCLA website.

Currently, the nation’s top spot is held by UC Santa Barbara; it’s the first time in decades that the Gauchos have been ranked so high in national polls—certainly going back to the 1979 NCAA champions. UCSB will open play today against #20 San Jose State. Other key match-ups: USC, the defending national and MPSF Invite champions, will face Princeton, the only team from the East that has traveled to Los Angeles. Pepperdine, which has lost twice to UCSB and once to UCLA, will face UC San Diego and star goalie Jack Turner.

mpsf.invite.bracketThe novelty of the MPSF Invite—and it’s predecessor, the Socal Invite—was the opportunity for the nation’s top teams to compete against each other outside of conference play. With the 2016 MPSF split—when Long Beach State, Pacific, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine joined a revived San Jose State program to create a men’s polo conference in the Golden Coast Conference—the SoCal, and it’s sister tournament, Norcal, have lost some of their luster.

[2019 MPSF Invitational Day One: Top Seeds Stanford, UCLA, UCSB and USC All Advance]

What will make this a memorable tournament is if UCSB, whose early play has upset the competitive balance in men’s polo, is able to keep winning. Having already beaten Cal, Stanford and USC—three of the Big Four from the Pac12 that have dominated intercollegiate polo for the last two decades—the Gauchos will have a shot at unseating UCLA if they both progress to a semifinal match tomorrow afternoon. A personal note; Danny Roland, who has been a catalyst for Gaucho success this fall, spent his freshman year in Westwood, backing up UCLA’s Alex Wolf.

[UCLA and Stanford Up, UCSB and Pacific Down on Day Two of 2019 MPSF Invite]

Stick with Swimming World for exclusive coverage of all the great storylines for what will prove to be a fascinating weekend of men’s water polo.