A Glorious Opening Weekend of Action for Men’s NCAA Water Polo

A news season begins—though this picture is from last year. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

Last weekend the 2018 season for men’s water polo season started off with a bang! At the Bruno Classic, Harvard, #9 in the latest Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Poll, upset #11 UC Davis, winning 15-14. It was a back-and-forth affair, punctuated by freshman Alex Tsotadze’s first two goals of his Crimson career. Also registering an East vs. West upset was host Brown. After losing to Pepperdine last year in overtime, the Bears (#17 CWPA) found the right combination in 2018, taking the #8 Waves to overtime before emerging with an 11-10 victory on the strength of three goals by Spencer Carroll.

Newcomer Austin College played its first-ever NCAA varsity match against Brown; the results were a not-so-surprising 16-7 loss, but Kangaroos Head Coach Mark Lawrence can take heart that his is the third program in three years to debut at the Bruno Classic—Wagner (2016) and McKendree (2017) being the others—and in two years the Seahawks have exceeded all expectations, one of the issues Head Coach Chris Radmonovich addressed in a recent interview.

#5 Pacific, also out East for the Bruno Classic, swept to four wins over Brown, Harvard, St. Francis Brooklyn and MIT by a combined score of 77-28.

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USAWP’s Alex Tsotadze now scoring for Harvard. Photo Courtesy: USA Water Polo / Peter Laurence

Down at the Navy Invitational in Annapolis, #18 George Washington and Wagner engaged in a furious rematch of the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference final; the Colonials again prevailed, scoring six times in the final period to overtake the Seahawks and prevail 15-14. Andrew Mavis was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring six goals against Wagner, part of an eight-goal outburst on a weekend when George Washington went a sterling 4-0.

Navy, opened the Luis Nicolao era at home with a win over Iona, but his new team stumbled against Princeton, where Nicolao coached for two decades before jumping ship. Dustin Litvak is the new Tigers head coach, and his players took care of business against the Midshipmen, sprinting to 15-9 win, part of a 3-0 opening weekend.

Two other Eastern coaches had their inaugural matches last weekend. Colleen Lischwe of McKendree saw her Bearcats score 42 goals in sweeping a pair of matches from Lindenwood at home. An assistant men’s coach last season as well as head coach for the Bearcat women, the wins represented the first of Lischwe’s new career leading the Bearcat men. Tom Hyham, who recently took over LaSalle’s men’s and women’s programs, did not fare as well in his first turn leading the Explorers, who dropped all four matches last weekend at Navy. Luckily, Hyham has the Laker Invitational next week at Mercyhurst, where LaSalle will have multiple shots at securing a first victory for their new coach.

Moving west, the match of the weekend took place at the Triton Invitational, where host #12 UC San Diego battled #9 UC Irvine through three overtime periods before the Anteaters prevailed 12-11 on a golden goal by Casey Lynton. Also sunning in San Diego was #3 Cal, which swept to a 3-0 record by scoring four times in the final period to beat back a determined UC Santa Barbara squad—now #7 in the CWPA poll—by 12-9. The Gauchos got four scores from Boris Jovanovic to stay close with the Golden Bears, but a pair of goals by Safak Simsek put the game out of reach. UC Santa Barbara did get a big win, taking down the #6 Long Beach State by 11-10 on Sunday.

Thanks to an 8-7 win over Concordia on Saturday in San Diego, new Air Force Head Coach Ryan Brown got his first victory leading the Falcons.

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Trojans always travel well for NCAAs (especially when matches are at home). Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Further up the California coast, UCLA held its invitational which included cross-town rival USC, Fresno Pacific, #19 Pomona-Pitzer and Whittier, whose new head coach—David Kasa—got his first-ever NCAA varsity win when the Poets beat Fresno Pacific 12-9 on Sunday. Pomona-Pitzer also beat the Sunbirds—12-7—but had a rough time against the nation’s top ranked teams, dropping a 16-1 decision to the Trojans and being beat 18-10 by the host Bruins.

A contest on Saturday that bore watching—the annual exhibition between  #2 UCLA and #1 USC—was not reported (rumor has it the Trojans came out on top). This rematch between last year’s NCAA finalists may mean nothing by season’s end; what is meaningful is that—despite some obvious flaws—these two teams will almost certainly meet in the 2018 NCAA tournament, three months from now.

2 Comments

2 comments

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      You know, “Gosh” is good… but “Awesome” is more to my liking. Especially the UC Irvine vs. UC San Diego match – what’s more exciting than a golden goal, especially on the first day of the season…

      Your correspondent

Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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