UC Davis Victory In WWPA Final Leads To NCAA Men’s Water Polo Quarterfinals

In a moment of unrestrained joy, UC Davis players and coaches celebrate 2019 WWPA title. Photo Courtesy: UC Davis Athletics

UC Davis lost a game to its rival UC San Diego during this summer’s USA Water Polo Senior National Championships and its first two games against the Tritons earlier in the season, but UC Davis coach Dan Leyson was looking at the long run.

wwpa-logo-apr-17By the time the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) conference championships rolled around, the Aggies were on a roll, with six straight wins, including a win over UCSD earlier this month.  In contrast, the Tritons lost four key players over the course of the season, with the biggest blow being the loss of leading scorer Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt last week. The WWPA tournament final featured an Aggies squad playing their best ball of the season against a Triton team hoping for the best.

The verdict? A peaking UCD squad in a romp on Sunday at the Lancer Aquatics Center in Riverside, Calif. UC Davis had nine players score in a dominating 14-5 victory, its third title game win over UC San Diego in the last five years.  With his team excelling in all aspects of the game, Leyson started to remove his valuables from his pockets and his shoes by the middle of the fourth quarter in preparation for the traditional dive into the pool in a post-game celebration.

As the Aggies celebrated their fifth WWPA title in school history (1996, 1997, 2016, 2017, 2019), questions emerged as to what team they would face in their opening quarterfinal game.  It was not long before the NCAA selection committee decided to pit the Aggies against the Pepperdine Waves, the Golden Coast Conference tournament champions.  If the Aggies get past Pepperdine, they will face University of Pacific, host of the tournament, in the semifinals.

[Pacific, Not UCLA, in as At-Large Team for 2019 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Tournament]

Earlier in the season, the Aggies lost to UOP 9-12 but the quarterfinal match will be the first time the Aggies will play the Waves this year.  Considering that the other side of the NCAA bracket includes both defending NCAA champion USC and #1-ranked Stanford, the Aggies are on the draw’s easier side and have a clear, albeit difficult path to the NCAA final.  If they do so, it will be the first time since 2000, when UC San Diego lost to UCLA, that a WWPA school will play for the national championship.


UCSD Coach Denny Harper and star striker Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt — a no show in the WWPA tournament — at 2018 NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Meanwhile, California Baptist and Santa Clara played a tough-fought third-place game that was tied eight times before the host Lancers opened up a 2-goal lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. Cal Baptist hung on and reversed its history of going 0-4 in third-place WWPA conference games, winning 12-10.

UC Davis goalie Jonah Addington was the MVP of the tournament.

WWPA All-Tournament Teams

First Team:
Mac Carey, Senior, Santa Clara
PJ McDonough, Junior, California Baptist
Gabe Thorne, Senior, California Baptist
Jack Turner, R-Senior, UC San Diego
Skyler Munatones, Senior, UC San Diego
Holden Tamblyn, Senior, UC Davis
Jack Stafford, Junior, UC Davis
Jonah Addington, Junior, UC Davis

Second Team:
Josh Ramage, Senior, Fresno Pacific
Mike Miller, Senior, Air Force
Austin Barton, Senior, Concordia
Joey Cavazos, Freshman, Loyola Marymount
Patrick Kirk, Senior, Santa Clara
Joseph Galgani, Junior, California Baptist
Calder Hilde-Jones, Junior, UC San Diego
Kyle Reilly, Junior, UC Davis