CWPA Top 20 Men’s Water Polo Poll: Guess Who’s #1? (Hint: It’s Not The Gauchos)

Friday, Stanford and Quinn Woodhead will face UC Santa Barbara and his former teammate Danny Roland. Photo Courtesy: Bryan Williams

In the wake of #1 USC—defending national champions—loss last Sunday to UC Santa Barbara, the first time the Trojans have lost to the Gauchos since 1990, there was a roiling of the rankings in the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Top 20. But not enough to suit fans of the upstart Gauchos, off to the best start in program history.

Stanford, on the strength of no NCAA competition, leap-frogged UCLA into the top spot in this week’s poll. Acknowledging the significance of UCSB’s achievement the previous two weeks—wins against the Trojans, Cal, Long Beach State and Pepperdine—Wolf Wigo’s squad was tied with the Bruins for second. Moving up from sixth to fourth was Pacific, while Southern Cal dropped to fifth, followed by Pepperdine.

At seventh is UC Davis—who also registered an history win last weekend when they upset Cal 13-10 in overtime. Because the records are spotty, it’s hard to know how long it’s been since the Aggies beat the Golden Bears, but estimates are that last occurred in 1976.

The rest of the Top 20 are relatively unremarkable, though it’s curious that four teams—Loyola Maryland, George Washington, Princeton and St. Francis Brooklyn—are all bunched together at #14, especially when the Terriers beat the Colonials who beat the Tigers (the Lions have yet to face the East—but they’ll get a crack at them in the Julian Fraser Tournament in October).

#1 Stanford University (5-0); while the Trojans were taking it on the chin from UCSB, Stanford and their Olympian Ben Hallock were scrumming with Pro Recco, the Italian professional club that came to the Bay Area for a series of friendlies with the Cardinal, Cal and UCLA. There was no chance the college teams were winning—Pro Recco traveled with eight members of the Italian national team that captured gold at the 2019 FINA World Championships—but it was a great warm-up for Stanford’s next game: Friday against UC Santa Barbara at Avery Aquatic Center.

#2 (T) UCLA (5-0); in on the friendlies with the Italians were the Bruins. It was also ideal for a UCLA club that is working its way into shape for the battles to come—and battle there will be, starting this Saturday with a match against #6 Pepperdine in Malibu.

#2 (T) UC Santa Barbara (9-0); what more can be said about UCSB? They’ve gotten off to a terrific start, turned the tables on two tormentors—Cal and USC—and consecutive weekend, and now they can prove that they are the country’s best as the go into Avery for Friday’s match against the top-ranked Cardinal. First, there’s a little matter of a rematch against Pepperdine, this time in Santa Barbara.

#4 Pacific (2-0); the Tigers are off this week after beating Cal last weekend. They’ll participate in the Aggie Round-Up in Davis this weekend as Head Coach James Graham works his team into shape.

#5 USC (3-1); interesting to see a notice that the Trojans took three out of four in their opening weekend of play—something that never happened when Jovan Vavic was coach. It’s silly to think USC is somehow diminished in 2019—this year’s roster is virtually identical to the one that beat Stanford for the NCAA title. But, losing to UCSB won’t instill much confidence in new head man Marko Pintaric among the Trojan faithful. A home match Thursday against Long Beach State should give them  encouragement.

#6 Pepperdine (8-1); if it wasn’t for UCSB, the Waves—with wins against LBS, UC San Diego and Loyola Marymount (twice) would be a bigger story. They have a great opportunity to make a splash Thursday when they travel to face the Gauchos—and have a chance for revenge after an 11-5 loss on the opening day of the season.

#7 UC Davis (3-2); with a weekend off to savor their historic win over Cal—the first time the Aggies have beaten the Golden Bears in at least two decades, and it’s likely as many as four—Head Coach Dan Leyson gets to prepare his club for hosting the Aggie Round-Up. One of their opponents next Sunday? Cal.

#8 Cal-Berkeley (3-3); if USC’s loss last Sunday was seminal, Cal’s twin defeats—to UC Davis and Pacific—are eye-opening. Are these just early season struggles of a young club? Or, is there some shift happening with Kirk Everist’s program? There;s little time to work it out before traveling this weekend to Davis for the Aggie Round-Up.

#9 Long Beach State (6-2); the 49ers have cleaned up on lesser competition—but it’s Golden Coast Conference opponents Pepperdine and UCSB that have given Head Coach Gavin Arroyo fits. It’s off to Los Angeles for a match tomorrow against USC—a match that will likely be a clear indicator of the prospects for both teams.

#10 UC Irvine (4-2); the Anteaters have a home match Friday against Concordia—and then a long break before the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Invitational starting on Friday, September 27.

#11 UC San Diego (6-3); a weekend jaunt at the Princeton Invitational was (mostly) rewarding for the Tritons—though it wasn’t stress-free for Head Coach Denny Harper, who was saddled with a red card in a wild win over the Tigers. A 3-1 mark against the best of the East isn’t so bad; now it’s on to Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) competition Friday against Fresno Pacific in Fresno.

#12 Harvard (5-0); preserving the East’s honor against the Triton was Harvard. After UCSD had beaten St. Francis, Princeton and Bucknell, it was left to the Crimson to stop the run. They did, dealing Harper’s club a 12-11 loss. Now it’s on to Lewisburg for the Bucknell Invitational. Key match-up: a match against George Washington.

#13 Bucknell (6-1); the combination of senior Rade Joksimovic (31 goals) and freshman Andu Vlasceanu (19 goals) has proven unstoppable to Eastern foes—it just wasn’t enough in a 14-7 loss to UC San Diego. This weekend at their own invitational the Bison dynamic duo—and everyone else—will look to get a leg up on Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference play against MAWPC foes Fordham, La Salle and Wagner.

#14 (T) Loyola Marymount (1-5); the Lions have been hard-luck losers, with all five losses to Top-10 teams. Saturday is a much easier test; LMU travels to play Fresno Pacific.

#14 (T) George Washington (7-1); the Colonials have a lone blemish on their record; a puzzling loss to St. Francis Brooklyn last Saturday, where GW went down 5-0 early and couldn’t catch up. Redemption is (potentially) at hand for Head Coach Barry King’s team; they open the first of four matches at the Bucknell Invitational against the Terriers.

#14 (T) Princeton (3-5); last Friday the Tigers played a terrific match against UC San Diego, losing 11-10 in overtime to the Tritons. The rest of their weekend at home was not as encouraging; a win against Johns Hopkins and losses to Bucknell and George Washington. Next up: Wagner and Navy on Saturday at DeNunzio Pool—and a chance to even their record.

#14 (T) St. Francis Brooklyn (5-3); a potentially great weekend at Princeton was spoiled by a 19-14 loss to New York City rival Fordham. This weekend it’s on to Lewisburg and a rematch against a very good George Washington squad—who the Terriers have already beaten this season.

#18 San Jose State (0-3); after losses to Stanford, UCLA and Pacific, the Spartans take a trip to Davis for four matches this weekend at the Aggie Round-Up.

#19 California Baptist (1-5); the Lancers will meet the Aggies Thursday at Davis; Head Coach Craig Rond’s squad will likely be looking forward to easier competition this weekend, when his team will face Austin College and San Jose State—with Cal in the mix.

#20 Brown (7-3); after a respectable showing at their own tourney two weeks ago and then in Princeton, the Bears go West for the Air Force Invitational. Waiting for Head Coach Felix Mercado’s squad in Colorado Springs; Long Beach State, the host Falcons and Chapman.

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