CWPA Top 20 Poll; Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara Beat Cal, Rise to #4

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A change of scenery—from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara—has served Danny Roland well. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

The 2019 men’s NCAA season kicked off last weekend with tournaments hosted by the Air Force Academy, Brown, the Naval Academy and UC San Diego. This was not a soft launch; by themselves the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara looked to upset the prognosticators at the Collegiate Water Polo Association (who are the coaches). A fantastic start by Wolf Wigo’s team—beating three top ten teams at the Triton Invitational, including Cal for the first time in 15 years—is the highlight of the opening weekend.

#1 – USC (0-0). The Trojans open next weekend at the Inland Empire Invitational in Claremont—and the men’s program has a new head coach for the first time in 25 years. Oh, and the Trojans are loaded with talent.

[Five Questions for Marko Pintaric, USC Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Coach]

#2 – UCLA (4-0). The Bruins were tough on the competition at the Navy Invitational —but not oppressively so. They outscored a quartet of Eastern teams; the most challenging match was against #12 Princeton, a 20-7 win.

Of more concern is the health of Adam Wright’s squad; they are dealing with a variety of ailments, and—according to their coach—may have some challenges replacing Quinten Osborne.

[UCLA Water Polo Coach Adam Wright at the Navy Invitational]

#3 – Stanford (4-0). In contrast to their MPSF rivals, the Cardinal were absolutely dominant against the varied assortment of squads they opposed at Navy. They set the tone early, dropping 26 goals on their hosts; overall Head Coach John Vargas’ team outscored their over-matched opponents by 90 – 14. True that USC has yet to hit the water—and it’s early!—but the Cardinal looks fantastic.

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When Stanford’s Tyler Abramson is bearing down, best to duck! Photo Courtesy: Bryan Williams

#4 – UC Santa Barbara (4-0). Quick: when’s the last time Cal wasn’t ranked in the Top Four this early in the season? Or, better yet—when’s the last time the UC Santa Barbara men were ranked so high? We’ll have to wait for those answers, but what no one has to wait for is how big an impact transfer Danny Roland, formerly a back-up goalie at UCLA, has had on the fortunes of Gaucho polo.

[On Deck With Ben Hallock of Stanford and the U.S. Men’s Water Polo Team]

Exciting times for Coach Wigo and his squad; their win over Cal—first since 2004—kicked off the new season with a bang!

#5 – Cal-Berkely (3-1). The Golden Bears have been on the wrong end of an upset for the second straight September. Not sure what this means for a Cal team that features a lot of young talent; is this another case of Kirk Everist’s team eventually surprising its MPSF rivals or do the Bears end up on the outside looking in for the second straight year? Way too early to speculate (of course people will…).

#6 – Pacific (1-0). Win over San Jose State on Saturday will be followed by a match against the Golden Bears this Sunday. Don’t expect Cal Coach Everist to go easy on anyone.

#7 – Long Beach State (3-1). Strong start for the 49ers, with the aforementioned Mr. Osborne contributing a pair of scores in his first action for his new team. In the battle between two of the Golden Coast Conference’s best teams the Gauchos strike first.

#8 – Pepperdine (3-1). The Waves fell prey to UCSB as well; that makes a trio of Top Ten squads the Gauchos beat last weekend in San Diego.

#9 (T) – UC Irvine (2-2). Tough opening schedule for the Anteaters and an even tougher loss in overtime to Long Beach State by a score of 10-8.

#9 (T) UC San Diego (2-2). The Tritons may have earned a split decision in their own tournament but they emerged from the weekend with a leg up in the WWPA by virtue of a 12-8 win over UC Davis.

#11 – UC-Davis (2-2). The match with Long Beach State—where the Aggies had a chance to knock off LBS before falling in overtime—has to be frustrating. But it’s the early-season loss to UCSD that probably hurts more.

#12 (T) – Harvard (2-0). An easy start for the Crimson but an early measure of Ted Minnis’ squad comes Saturday against the Tritons at the Princeton Invitational. UCSD is the highest-ranked team in the early part of Harvard’s schedule.

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Luis Nicolao: architect of the 2019 Navy Invite—and an ambitious rebuild of USNA polo. Photo Courtesy: Phil Hoffmann

#12 (T) Princeton (2-2). The Tigers got waxed by Stanford and UCLA; now this weekend they get payback at their own tournament. Newcomer Joan Coloma looks like a great addition to Head Coach Dusty Litvak’s line-up.

#14 – Bucknell (4-0) Good opening for the Bison; great start to his final season in Lewisburg for Rade Joksimovic: 22 goals.

#15 – George Washington (4-0). Strong start for the Colonials, who will look to keep pace with the thundering Bison.

#16 – Loyola Marymount (1-3). A bit of déjà vu all over again for the Lions, tough losses to Cal, Pepperdine and UC Davis.

#17 – St. Francis Brooklyn (3-1). First time Terriers are ranked in the top 20 so early since 2017, easily their best opening weekend record since them, with a big assist by newcomer Ivan Stefanovic (10 goals)

#18 – San Jose State (0-1). Up next: Stanford at the Stanford Invite.

#19 – Brown (5-1). Fast start at their own tournament, but how to read an OT win over Wagner and a two-goal win over DII McKendree.

#20 – California Baptist (1-3). The Lancers had a tough road trip to Providence for the the Bruno Classic. Lots of offense—60 goals—but not enough stops by goalies Gabe Thorne and Tristan Felberg.

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