Pac-12 Networks Announces Broadcast Dates for 2018 Men’s Water Polo Season

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Is it possible we'll see this scene again in 2018? Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

Last week, the Pac-12 Networks—arguably American water polo’s most important broadcast partner—announced its 2018 fall schedule of livePac-12 sports broadcasts. Its coverage of men’s intercollegiate polo will include seven matches between Pac-12 members UC-Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and USC—all part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). Veteran broadcasters Chris Dorst and Greg Mescall are expected to again describe the action.

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Coverage begins with a bang on Saturday, Oct. 6: a scintillating match-up with Stanford hosting Southern Cal. The 2018 season will be the Cardinal’s 50th; winners of 10 national championships—but none since 2002—they enter the fall three wins shy of 1,000 (997-308-8).

Missing from Head Coach John Vargas’ line-up will be Sawyer Rhodes, who, when he signed last year with Stanford, was considered the top young lefty in the country. After a semester negotiating dual challenges—athletic and academic— Rhodes escaped The Farm for Los Angeles, where he was met with open arms by USC Head Coach Jovan Vavic.

It’s VERY early to predict, but if Rhodes is eligible to join current US Men’s Senior Team sensation Hannes Daube for the 2018 campaign, the Trojans are not only likely to extend a remarkable streak of 13 straight NCAA finals appearances, in December they may be hoisting a tenth NCAA title, which would tie USC with Stanford.

In another compelling pairing, on Saturday, Oct. 27 defending 2017 NCAA champions UCLA will face Cal, the 2016 winners. Last year, the Bruins won the programs’ 11th national title and UCLA’s 114th NCAA title with a taught 7-5 win over arch-rival USC. In the 2016 final, Cal surprised a favored Trojan squad, coming from behind to beat Vavic’s squad 11-8 in overtime for the program’s record 14th men’s title.

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Will Jovan Vavic be smiling in December? Photo Courtesy: USC Athletics

Cal will get a rematch with USC on Saturday, November 3 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. After losing 2018 Cutino Award winner Luca Cupido to graduation, Cal Head Coach Kirk Everist’s squad will seek revenge for a tough loss in a 2017 NCAA semifinal. The Trojans came from three goals down in the third period to capture a 12-11 victory and a berth in the 2017 national championship final.

USC and Uytengsu will be again featured for the first of a Pac-12 Network polo double-header on November 10. The Trojans will host arch-rival UCLA in a rematch of the national championship final, when Adam Wright’s upstart squad captured the Bruins’ third NCAA title in the last four years. UCLA will likely relying on Nicolas Saveljic, a freshman last year who led the Bruins with 45 goals. The next three leading goal scorers—Max Irving (40 goals in 2017), Alex Roelse (35) and Matt Farmer (29)—all graduated from Westwood last spring.

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Nicolas Saveljic. Photo Courtesy: UCLA Athletics

No matter who suits up for the Bruins or Trojans, this match promises to be an exciting edition to a polo rivalry that UCLA leads 86-80-1.

The second half of the November 10th doubleheader features Cal versus Stanford. In recent times, no college men’s water polo rivalry has been more contentious than when the Golden Bears face the Cardinals. Last November in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s (MPSF) third place game, Cal’s Cupido stuck a dagger into the hearts of Stanford fans when he tied the match at 8-all with seconds to spare, and then hit on the eventual game-winner in overtime to lead his team to an 10-9 win and a berth in the NCAAs. With that loss, the Cardinal were denied an NCAA berth for the third straight year. This match—the last of the regular season—may go a long way to determining if Vargas squad, anchored by sensational set Ben Hallock, will end its draught of NCAA appearances.

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Ben Hallock. Photo Courtesy: Stanford Athletics

On November 18, The Pac-12 will televise the MPSF championship match as well as the all-important third-place game, which again may be the difference between which Pac-12 teams do, or don’t, qualify for NCAAs.

For more information about the Pac-12 Network, or to find a list of all the sports they broadcast, click on the link here.