Day Two of the WWPA Conference Championships: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Like the Energizer Bunny, UC San Diego Head Coach Denny Harper keeps going. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Day Two of the Western Water Polo Association Conference Championships at California Baptist University culminated in two thrilling semifinal games.

wwpa-logo-apr-17The first game of the day was the 7th-place game with 7th-seed Air Force Academy facing 8th-seed Fresno Pacific. Fresno Pacific’s senior Cody Wickman tied the game up in the first minute, but then the Cadets gradually pulled away for a 14-5 victory. Junior Campbell Harris, whose father was the captain and MVP of the 1985 Air Force team, scored three goals to lead Air Force. The Falcons ended their season 11-17 overall while the Sunbirds finished with a 6-23 record.

In the second game of the day, a disappointed Loyola Marymount University that unexpectedly lost its first game against Santa Clara came out firing on all cylinders versus Concordia University. Although Concordia kept the game close through the middle of the first quarter, LMU shifted into high gear, went on a 7-0 run and never let up.

LMU freshman Joseph Cavazos from Jesuit High School in Northern California scored a season-high six goals, while teammate David Carrasco from Barcelona, Spain, chipped in four goals. In a season where the Lions were ranked as high as 12th, LMU finished at 14-12 overall. Concordia concluded its 2019 campaign with a 9-18 record, an improvement over 2018’s 5-19 campaign.


UC Davis has that winning feeling. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayn

The first semifinal game saw #1-seed UC Davis face the host school California Baptist University. The #4-seed California Baptist fed off of its loud home crowd to take a two-goal lead in the third quarter, but the Aggies never look flustered — and never faltered.

Coach Dan Leyson stuck with his strengths — speed, fast breaks, defense and a deeper bench. After taking a 9-7 lead with 4:49 in the third period, California Baptist never scored again in the game. UC Davis went on a 7-goal run led by Jack Stafford, a junior from Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California.

UC Davis earned its way to its fifth straight conference title game.

The second semifinal game was a close seesaw battle between #2-seed UC San Diego and upstart #6-seed Santa Clara University.  The momentum of the game went back and forth as Santa Clara Coach Keith Wilbur had his team playing its best ball of the season.

The game was tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 goals apiece before senior co-captain Skyler Munatones of Huntington Beach, California drilled a 9-meter shot with 22 seconds left in the game. Santa Clara came down to tie it up, hoping for its second overtime game of the tournament, but Adam Low’s shot was blocked.

The semifinal victories by UC Davis and UC San Diego set up the fifth-straight conference title game between the two rivals with an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships at stake at 12:00 noon.

While UC San Diego has won 2 of the 3 games with UC Davis this season, UC Davis has won the last 2 of 3 title games and UC San Diego will be without its leading scorer Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt. But the title game will showcase several players on both sides potentially playing their last game of their careers so it should be an intense match.

Santa Clara will play California Baptist in the third-place game at 10:00 am at the Lancer Aquatic Center in Riverside, California. Both games will be livecast.

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