CWPA Men’s Water Polo Varsity Poll: Looking at the Country’s Next Ten Best Teams

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Billy Motherway and Princeton will defend at home while much of the East goes West for the Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament in California. Photo Courtesy: Nicole Maloney

After paying attention to the top 10 teams in the weekly Collegiate Water Polo Association men’s varsity poll, it seemed appropriate that Swimming World looking at what’s happening with the next 10 in the Top 20 poll—especially given that so many of these teams will be playing each other this weekend at the Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament, hosted by Santa Clara University.

#11 UC Irvine (7-9; 0-1 GCC), coming off a couple of wins in the Mountain Pacific Invitational last weekend at Stanford, will travel to beautiful Malibu for a match Saturday against Golden Coast Conference rival Pepperdine, currently #6 in the country.

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Julian Fraser, former Santa Clara player who passed away in 2017. Photo Courtesy: Dignity Memorial

Holding down the #12 spot by virtue of an extremely successful showing last week at Harvard’s Crimson Invitational was Princeton, where the Tigers (12-6; 3-4 NEWPC) beat high-flying Bucknell 12-11. Unlike many of their Eastern brethren, Head Coach Dustin Litvak’s squad is staying home, hosting Northeast Water Polo conference foe Iona tonight in New Jersey.

Riding what has been a bit of a roller coaster this season is #13 Harvard. The Crimson (15-5; 5-1 NEWPC) had reached as high as #7 in the polls back on September 26 but have taken some lumps of late, including a high-scoring loss to Bucknell last Saturday at their own tournament. Later today Ted Minnis’ team will face the host Broncos at the Frasier Memorial. They’ll also face #19 San Jose State and #18 Loyola Marymount Saturday and then face Fresno Pacific on Sunday.

#14 Bucknell has seen its stock rise dramatically the past two weeks as the Bison (16-3; 8-1 MAWPC) won against #20 George Washington, # 20 Wagner—Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference rivals—as well as Harvard and #16 Brown. The last three wins came at the Crimson Invitational; if Head Coach John McBride’s charges had made it a clean sweep they—not Princeton—would be the East’s top-ranked squad. Alas, Princeton upset those plans, pinning a 12-11 loss on the Bison last Sunday. Bucknell gets a taste of California sunshine starting Saturday at the Fraser Memorial when they face #15 Cal Baptist and San Jose State followed Sunday by matches against host Santa Clara and Air Force.

Another top 20 team on the rise is #15 Cal Baptist (14-9; 2-1 WWPA). The Lancers took down #10 UC San Diego two weeks ago at the Gary Troyer Tournament, and recently picked up wins against Fordham and Concordia. They’ll look to continue their winning ways with matches against Eastern foes at the Fraser Memorial: today against Brown and Saturday against Bucknell and #20 Wagner.

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Brown’s Felix Mercado has his Bears ready to play. Photo Courtesy: Brown Athletics

One team everyone may want to stay clear of at the moment is Brown, tied for #16 with Pomona-Pitzer. The Bears (12-9; 4-2 NEWPC) beat Harvard and Princeton two weeks ago, picked up wins against Claremont-Mudd and University of Toronto last Saturday—then dropped a tough match to Wagner before losing to Bucknell. What’s impressive is the resilience of Head Coach Felix Mercado’s players; they’ll be tested in California by Cal Baptist today, Loyola Marymount and Fresno Pacific tomorrow and then San Jose State on Sunday—all at Santa Clara.

Tied at 16 with Brown is Pomona-Pitzer; the Sage Hens (13-7; 6-0 SCIAC) are NOT attending the Frasier Memorial, tomorrow they host two Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foes: Occidental and La Verne as they look to keep pace with Claremont Mudd (7-0 in the SCIAC).

The Lions of #18 Loyola Marymount (7-9; 2-1 WWPA) went 1-3 at the MPSF Invitational last weekend, but that one win was a big one: upsetting Pomona-Pitzer. It moved LMU into the top 20 for the first time in three weeks; question is: will they stay there after facing St. Francis Brooklyn today and Brown and Harvard on Saturday.

#19 San Jose State has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, having faced the #1 team in the country three different times, as well as the #2, #3, #4 and #5 teams as well. The end result is a 4-11 record, which may get worse before it gets better; games this weekend against Harvard and Bucknell tomorrow and Brown and St. Francis Brooklyn on Sunday. It’s all a prelude for GCC play; over the next three weekends the Spartans (0-1 GCC) will play four matches against conference foes.

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Spartan’s Bruce Watson. Photo Courtesy: SJSU Athletics

Wagner—tied for 20th with MAWPC rival George Washington—has experience a let-down after a program-first win last Saturday against Brown. The Seahawks (10-9; 5-2 MAWPC) lost later that day to Harvard, and then dropped a 14-10 decision to New York City rival Fordham on Wednesday night. Not a wonderful prelude to a match against #2 Stanford tonight at Avery Aquatic Center. The good new? A relatively manageable slate of matches against host Santa Clara and Cal Baptist on Saturday and Air Force and Fresno Pacific on Sunday at the Fraser Memorial.

Neck-and-neck with Wagner all season has been George Washington, but the Colonials (15-5; 5-2 MAWPC) did not follow the Seahawks—or any other Eastern team—out to California. Barry King’s team will stay at home where tonight they face Navy, an MAWPC foe looking to reclaim past glory; unfortunately the Middies are a year away from that, meaning GW will keep pace with Bucknell and Wagner even from afar.