Signs of Life for NCAA Men’s Water Polo: CWPA Top 20 Preseason Poll

Stanford team pic w trophy 12-8-19
Last seen winning the NCAA men's water polo championship (a year ago): Stanford. Photo Courtesy: Shumesa Mohsin

In what is a very optimistic outlook for NCAA men’s water polo, earlier this week the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) released a Top 20 Preseason Poll—albeit one with a number of caveats. The biggest being: will anyone be playing?

cwpa“Due to the fluid nature of the season, the Preseason Polls are the best estimate of programs which intend to compete and should not be considered a declarative/definitive statement of a program’s intent to compete during the Winter 2021 season,” explained the press release that included the Winter 2021 Men’s Varsity Top 20 Poll.

In the spirit of a new year, Swimming World is publishing this poll (as follows) with a few observations.

For the first time in its history, Gannon University received enough votes to be included among the nation’s top 25 teams. The DIII program in Erie, Pennsylvania, gained national recognition in 2018 when it forged a 19-match win streak, broken by McKendree in the semifinals of the Mid-Atlantic Western Regional Championship.

Likewise, Connecticut College—another DIII program which has also never received CWPA Top 20 poll votes—is listed in the 2021 Preseason Poll.

Also noteworthy was Concordia University’s inclusion in the top 20 for the first time ever; in 2018, the Eagles were 5-19 and 1-6 in Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) play; two years later Head Coach Dreason Barry may have engineered yet another rebuild of the program that he took over in 2015. The last time the Eagles received votes was 2013, when they finished 13th in the final poll of the year.

Joining Concordia in the Winter 2021 poll was Fresno Pacific; the Sunbirds received votes for the first time.

It’s important to note that entire Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC)—which includes Brown, Harvard, MIT, Princeton and St. Francis, Brooklyn—will not compete this year. Also, the eight schools in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC)—which includes California Institute of Technology, Chapman, Claremont-Mudd-Scrips, La Verne, Occidental, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands and Whittier—voted in December against men’s competition for the 2020-21 academic year.


In 2019 Whittier won the first-ever DIII national championship. Photo Courtesy: Tony Leon

The University of the Pacific–last year’s national runner-up—and Long Beach State will not be competing this winter

As of now, no one can truly predict what competition will look like but the prevailing thought is that the remaining conferences—Golden Coast Conference (GCC), the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC), which will include Iona from the NWPC, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) and the Western Water Polo Association—will primarily play conference foes.

Here’s to good thoughts that collegiate polo play will begin again in the U.S.—perhaps later this month.

Winter 2021 Men’s Varsity Top 20 Poll

1 (T) Stanford University
1 (T) University of Southern California
3 University of California-Los Angeles
4 Pepperdine University
5 University of California
6 University of California-Santa Barbara
7 University of California-Davis
8 University of California-San Diego
9 (T) Loyola Marymount University
9 (T) Bucknell University
11 California Baptist University
12 University of California-Irvine
13 George Washington University
14 United States Naval Academy
15 San Jose State University
16 Fordham University
17 Santa Clara University
18 United States Air Force Academy
19 Wagner College
20 Concordia University
RV Iona College
RV Connecticut College
RV Fresno Pacific University
RV Gannon University