Swimming World’s Guide to ALL 2019 Men’s Water Polo Conference Tournaments

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UC San Diego's Jack Turner has one more shot at an NCAA tournament - but the Tritons have to qualify this weekend. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

With the regular season now finished in all men’s water polo contests, it’s on to the postseason for teams in the Golden Coast Conference, Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Northeast Water Polo Conference, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Western Water Polo Association.

Play starts this weekend; details — including tournament websites and where to stream games as well as predictions — are below.

If you want to see how Swimming World has done so far in predicting conference regular season success, check out our 2019 predictions here [full disclosure; it’s not looking good for us!]

November 30, 2017; Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, California, USA; Waterpolo: NCAA: UC Davis Aggies vs University of the Pacific Tigers; Pacific Utility Luke Pavillard guarded by UC Davis Attacker Colter Knight Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne- KLC fotos

Pacific’s Luke Pavillard has been GCC Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Golden Coast Conference

Dates: November 22 – 24

Location: Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool, Pepperdine University

Reigning Champion: Long Beach State

Regular Season Winner: Pacific

Teams competing (listed by seeding):
– Pacific (15-3; 5-0 GCC)
– Pepperdine (22-7; 4-1 GCC)
– UC Santa Barbara (19-6; 3-3 GCC)
– Long Beach State (16-12; 2-3 GCC)
– San Jose State (7-18; 1-4 GCC)
– UC Irvine (7-14; 0-5 GCC)

NOTES: Pacific is seeking its second GCC title in the last three years. With the conference now in its fourth year of existence, the Tigers have played in all three previous GCC finals. With wins in its last five games, host Pepperdine came on strong to capture second and join Pacific as teams with byes into the semifinals. UC Santa Barbara — back in the GCC tournament after sitting out last year’s postseason due to an NCAA investigation — is hoping to advance to its first NCAA tournament since 1990. Long Beach State upset Pacific in the 2018 title game; the 49ers will need big performances from Austin Stewart, Matt Morris and Rafael Real Vergara to duplicate their run from last season. San Jose State finished out of the GCC cellar for the first time since bringing back water polo in 2016. UC Irvine — with losses in 11 of its last 12 — is hoping to avoid going winless in its conference play for the first time since 2012.

[Revenge of the GCC: Pacific, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara in Top Five of CWPA Varsity Poll]

Noteworthy: until early this month, it was possible that a GCC team might get an NCAA at-large bid for the first time ever. With Pacific sitting at #4 in the rankings it is still possible for that to happen – but it would take a series of unlikely events, including Cal winning the MPSF, for that to occur.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches

SW Prediction: with NCAAs taking place in Pacific’s pool and the reality that there’s only one path for a GCC squad to the national tournament, a deep Tiger squad will find a way to win.

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Fordham’s Jake Miller-Tolt has led the Rams in scoring all his four years in the Bronx. Photo Courtesy: Fordham Athletics

Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)

Dates: November 22 – 24

Location: Kinney Natatorium, Bucknell University

Reigning Champion: George Washington (2017, 2018)

Regular Season Winner: Bucknell

Teams competing (listed by seeding):
– Bucknell (19-8; 10-2 MAWPC)
– Fordham (22-9; 9-3 MAWPC)
– George Washington (20-8; 9-3 MAWPC)
– Navy (14-12; 6-6 MAWPC)
– Wagner (6-22; 4-8 MAWPC)
– Johns Hopkins (10-19; 3-9 MAWPC)
– La Salle (6-20; 1-11 MAWPC)
– Gannon (17-2; 6-0 MAWPC-West)

NOTES: Bucknell has won the regular season title the last three years; won the MAWPC tournament in 2016, lost in the semifinals in 2017 and in the finals in 2018. Fordham has never qualified for the NCAAs; this is their best conference finish since tying for the top of the then-Northern Division title in 2009. George Washington has been to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years after never going in the program’s 35-year history. Navy last went to the NCAA tournament in 2008. Wagner went from 18 wins in 2018 to 6 wins in 2019. Johns Hopkins beat Wagner 23-22 in its final regular season match but was still one game behind the Seahawks. La Salle increased its win total from 2 in 2018 to 6 in 2019. Gannon will be making its first appearance in the MAWPC tournament after winning the MWAPC-West with a 15-14 OT win over the Bearcats in the title game of their conference.

Noteworthy: Bucknell’s Rade Joksimovic will end up his Bison career with well-over 500 goals and 180 assists for his career in Lewisburg, second only to the great Scott Schulte who with 586 goals and 256 assists is the leading scorer in NCAA varsity history. Johns Hopkins will continue playing no matter how it does in this tournament. Last month the Blue Jays qualified for the first-ever DIII Collegiate Championship, which will be played December 7, 8 at the top finisher in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) tournament.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches; cost: $10 per game; $25 for a weekend pass

SW Prediction: Sticking with the Bison to win a MAWPC title in Joksimovic’s last-ever match at home.

September 28, 2019; Spieker Aquatics Complex, Los Angeles, CA, USA; MWP: USC Trojans vs University of the Pacific Tigers; Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne

Don’t forget about this guy! USC’s Hannes Daube. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)

Dates: November 22 – 24

Location: Spieker Aquatics Complex, Cal-Berkeley

Reigning Champion: Stanford

Regular Season Winner: USC

Teams competing (listed by seeding):
– USC (13-4; 3-0 MPSF)
– Stanford (17-2; 2-1 MPSF)
– UCLA (16-3; 1-2 MPSF)
– Cal (12-10; 0-3)
– Penn State Behrend (6-12)
– Austin College (3-17)

NOTES: USC has won three-straight against MPSF rivals and goes into their conference tournament riding a hot streak by senior Marin Dasic, who scored nine times in the Trojans’ last four matches — all wins. Stanford is looking to win back-to-back MPSF titles for the first time ever. UCLA hopes that Nicolas Saveljic (nine goals last five games) extends a late-season surge. Cal — hosting MPSFs this year — has not only sustained the most losses in a season during the Kirk Everist era; they are looking at the first time in MPSF history to go without a win in conference play. Penn State Behrend will face Austin in the first round; last month the Lions won a match against a DI opponent for first time in program history. Austin College tripled its win total in its second year as a varsity program.

[CWPA Top 20 Comes Full Circle: Southern Cal is #1 in NCAA Men’s Water Polo]

Noteworthy: Adrian Weinberg (Cal), Warren Loth (Cal) and Tommy Gruwell (UCLA) are MPSF freshmen who were just named to the United States roster for the 2019 FINA Men’s Junior World Championships.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches; you must have a Pac-12 Network subscription

SW Prediction: Hard to bet against the hot team. USC will come out on top.

Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC)

Dates: November 22 – 24

Location: Zesiger Sports And Fitness Center at MIT

Reigning Champion: Princeton

Regular Season Winner: Harvard

Teams competing (listed by seeding):
– Harvard (27-0; 10-0 NWPC)
– Princeton (15-14; 7-3 NWPC)
– Brown (20-11; 6-4 NWPC)
– St. Francis Brooklyn (18-12; 5-5 NWPC)
– MIT (10-13; 2-8 NWPC)
– Iona (6-21; 0-10 NWPC)

NOTES: Harvard is seeking to become the first team from the East to go undefeated in qualifying for NCAAs. Princeton played by far the toughest schedule of any team from this coast. Brown has won six of eight to get to 20 wins for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons. St. Francis is seeking its first-ever NWPC title; the Terriers last went to NCAAs in 2013. MIT has a chance to increase its win total for the third consecutive year; it has already qualified for the DIII national championship. Iona hopes to break a streak of conference losses that has ballooned to 21 straight.

[Twenty-seven and 0? Wow! But Harvard Men’s Water Polo Has More to Prove]

Noteworthy: All the pressure is on Harvard to do something never done before in the East; run the table and get to NCAAs. Last year Gannon won its first 20 straight before falling to McKendree in the MAWPC-West final. If the Crimson can accomplish this feat, it will be the greatest season in program history — though their most successful season is 2016, when the advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches: cost: $10 per game; $25 for a weekend pass

SW Prediction: Tempting to go with Princeton and the upset special, but Harvard has proven all season that it has the depth and desire to win.

20190908 WPM vs. CLU, McKendree

Harvard’s Ted Minnis has taken the Crimson where no other Eastern team has gone before. Photo Courtesy: Gil Talbot

Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC)

Dates: November 23, 24

Locations: Lillian Slade Aquatics Center at Whittier College; Matt M. Axelrood Pool at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

Reigning Champion: Pomona-Pitzer

Regular Season Winner: Whittier

Teams competing (listed by seeding):
– Whittier (17-12; 13-1 SCIAC)
– Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) (16-10; 11-3 SCIAC)
– Pomona-Pitzer (20-10; 11-3 SCIAC)
– Redlands (15-14; 8-6 SCIAC)

NOTES: Whittier will host a match against Redlands and is seeking to win the SCIAC for the first time since 2014. On their way to the 2019 regular season title the Poets twice beat Pomona-Pitzer, reigning conference champs. CMS also beat the Sage Hens this season and emerged with the tie-breaker over their conference rival due to a better record against Whittier; they seek a SCIAC title for the first time since 2015. Pomona-Pitzer has won the last three titles; they will not host for first time since 2015 and have an uphill battle to become the first four-time winner. Redlands has not won a title in a decade and has not beaten Pomona-Pitzer since 2015.

[Brown’s Felix Mercado and Pomona-Pitzer’s Alex Rodriguez: Growing Water Polo]

Noteworthy. For the three previous years, capturing the SCIAC title would have earned the winner a berth in the national championship. For 2019, The SCIAC has agreed that the winner and runner up in their tournament will be half of a Final Four for the DIII Collegiate Championship that will be hosted by their conference’s winner. This change entails the forfeiture of the conference’s NCAA bid, done to ensure that the new championship will represent the top DIII teams in the country.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches:

SW Prediction: Since Dominick Nevarez arrived last summer at Whittier, the Cal Baptist transfer has transformed the Poets’ attack, chipping in 56 goals — including seven in helping his team twice beat the Sage Hens. He has been the X-factor all season and will help Whittier to a win over Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC final.

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Pomona-Pitzer’s Sam Sasaski. Photo Courtesy: Pomona-Pitzer Athletics

Western Water Polo Association (WWPA)

Dates: November 22 – 24

Location: Lancer Aquatics Center at Cal Baptist University

Reigning Champion: UC San Diego

Regular Season Winner: UC Davis

Teams competing (listed by seeding:
– UC Davis (13-7; 7-0 WWPA)
– UC San Diego (18-7; 6-1 WWPA)
– Loyola Marymount (11-11; 5-2 WWPA)
– Cal Baptist (15-14; 4-3 WWPA)
– Concordia (9-16; 3-4 WWPA)
– Santa Clara (14-11; 2-5 WWPA)
– Air Force (10-16; 1-6 WWPA)
– Fresno Pacific (6-21; 0-7 WWPA)

NOTES: UC Davis lost its first two meetings to UC San Diego; a win last weekend over the Tritons in La Jolla gave the Aggies the top seed. UCSD won the WWPA title in 2018, breaking a streak of two-straight championships by UCSD. The Tritons subsequently advance their first NCAA Final Four for the first time since 2015. This season, Loyola Marymount beat UCSD for the first time since 2015. Since 2017 Cal Baptist has enjoyed a 21-7 record at home, losing only four WWPA games during that stretch. After winning only one WWPA match last season, Concordia tripped its win total in 2019, with only lop-sided losses to UC Davis and UC San Diego. Santa Clara had a narrow loss to UCSD on October 18; the Broncos come into the tournament on a three-match winning streak. In year three of a rebuilding effort, Air Force increased its win total from 2018 but regressed in conference play; winning only one WWPA match in 2019 — against Fresno Pacific — after winning three last season. The Sunbirds are looking to snap a seven-match losing streak in conference play; they finished seventh at last year’s WWPA tournament after beating Concordia.

Tournament website

Click here to stream all matches

SW Prediction: Either UCD and UCSD have won this title the last five years; these two teams are almost certain to advance to the WWPA final again. In Jack Turner, the Tritons have the conference’s best goalie; if he’s on top of the game it’s hard to see Head Coach Denny Harper’s team losing.

4 comments

  1. avatar
    Anonymous

    A fight took place during the third quarter of the Pepperdine-UCSB game that has significant implications for the conference tournament. Six brutalities is a rarity in a water polo game. The four for UCSB are players on the bench hopping in and presumably planning on swimming twenty-five meters to join the fracas in front of Pepperdine’s bench (they didn’t jump in). Talk about failing an IQ test at a critical moment. Pepperdine’s live stream doesn’t show those Darwin award winners but one wonder’s what the coaches were doing. Pepperdine’s website covers the incident while UCSB’s ignores it entirely (yet another embarrassment). Perhaps you might explore this with the GCC to see exactly how the potential next game penalties will be enforced. There is a chance Pepperdine might have a GCC tournament rematch with UCSB minus at least one starter. Check the tape–one can imagine Coach Schroeder may have a thing or two to say about who started that fight and who threw punches–this will be an interesting test for the conference. There’s some online blabbering about the officials–not perfect but are they ever?–Pepperdine had the game in hand before the fight.

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      Dear Anonymous:

      Bill Cohn and I briefly corresponded about the Pepperdine / UCSB brawl. To paraphrase, his point is that everyone will be on their best behavior at the GCC tournament this weekend. Not that it will change what happened last Saturday – and I think that Pepperdine comes out worse in this b/c Asic is done for his career if the Waves don’t qualify for NCAAs (and there’s almost no chance they get an at-large bid – though it’s not impossible).

      Bill will be covering the GCC tournament, so he may venture onto the territory you outline about what the conference thinks. My opinion is that — as long as it’s not too crazy during a Wave / Gaucho semi — the GCC will wait until after the season’s over to assess additional penalties (Bill spoke with the conference earlier this week; I used his info on the Top 20 piece that I posted earlier today).

      My question to you is: are you endorsing stricter penalties against UCSB? You suggest the tape implicates the Gauchos (I have yet to see it); I suppose that they did bear the brunt of the calls. On the other hand, who comes out worse in this? I suppose if the Anteaters get the upset then it’s all bad for Wigo and company. If not, the main person he loses tomorrow is Yuno (no small loss) while the Waves have to play short their #2 goal scorer. I suspect THAT’S what will make Coach Schroeder most angry.

      Oh, and what about the WWP comments?! If I had more time I’d dig in on what they have to say about this / the UCSB sanctions (maybe over the holiday break…!).

      If you are at the tournament please say hello to Bill (something tells me you know each other).

      Your correspondent

  2. avatar
    Anonymous

    Double check your/Cohn story–Brosnan played. With a two game suspension the penalties are relatively balanced. As you point out–each team down a starter. Pepperdine down Asic if they advance. The fight is all on Pepperdine’s coverage of the game. Personally, I am surprised the ucsb center did not pick up more than a game ejection but he kept his contact underwater for the most part. The water polo planet discussion is amusing. Hard to really discern each blow but what matters in the end is referees perception in the moment. Four players hopping in to swim 25 meters and join a 10 second water polo “fight” in front of an opponents bench is absurd, embarrassing, and on the coaches/players. You can see Moses wildly motioning to the referee when it happened. That debacle is about as inconceivable as Wigo getting red carded (apparently) at the end of the UCI game–see box score. If UCSB prevails in the semi they will have all their players, and their coach, for a final with Long Beach/UOP.

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      Dear Anonymous:

      Lots of discussion on the editorial side about the status of UCSB’s Cole Brosnan. He played (quite well in fact – 3 goals, 2 assists). We were wrong; Brosnan was rolled from last Saturday’s Pepperdine / UCSB match for comments made to the referee previous to the melee; as such he was not subject to the penalties that ensued at the end of the third period.

      As to Wigo, well I didn’t see the match so cannot comment on those circumstances BUT it (apparently) just does not get any easier for the Gauchos. As you point out, a win against a Pepperdine squad down one of their best player would move UCSB into the final with their entire roster intact — and make for a compelling finish to what has been a great season for the Gauchos!

      Bill Cohn will be there for SW, so we’ll have live coverage of what may be the most compelling of the six conference tournament happening this weekend.

      Your correspondent