Photo by: Jimmy Gekas/Sideline Studios
UCSD's John Butler (blue cap) attempts to block WWPA Player of the Year Edgaras Asajavicius in UCSD's first contest against Loyola Marymount on September 4. UCSD and LMU will only meet at the conference tournament if each advances to the final.
WWPA Championships Get Underway Thursday, UCSD Opens Play Friday After Bye
Release: Wednesday 11/16/2011 
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The UC San Diego men's water polo team holds the No. 2 seed for this week's WWPA Championships.

WWPA Tournament Second Round
No. 2 UCSD (14-9) vs. No. 7 Claremont (15-11, 6-2) or No. 10 Whittier (11-19, 4-10)
Friday, November 17 - 4:30 p.m.
Canyonview Pool - La Jolla, Calif.

The UCSD men's water polo team will host the 2011 WWPA Men's Championships at Canyonview Aquatic Center November 17-20. For all information on the WWPA Championships, visit the Tournament Central Page. The winner of the 12-team tournament earns an automatic bid to the 2011 National Collegiate Men's Water Polo Championship hosted by Cal, December 3-4.

Want to get up-to-the-second scores, photos and announcements from this year's WWPA Championships? Follow @WWPAChamps on Twitter to stay in the loop with all the action this week at Canyonview Pool.

The Tritons were awarded a No. 2 seed for the conference tournament after posting a 12-3 WWPA record. UCSD's only losses were to this year's No. 1 seed, Loyola Marymount. UCSD did top LMU this year, however. The Tritons downed the Lions 9-5 on October 2 at the Socal Tournament in Long Beach behind a hat trick by Graham Saber and a pair of goals by Matthew Michalko. Key wins over the WWPA's top teams helped the Tritons secure the second seed behind LMU. Josh Stiling's four goals helped UCSD overcome No. 3 Santa Clara 14-7 on November 4. The Tritons beat fourth-seeded UC Davis twice this season, 11-10 and 10-6, on October 2 and October 28, respectively.

Five members of this year's squad were named All-WWPA, it was announced Tuesday by the conference. David Morton and John Butler took home first team honors while Saber and Brian Donohoe were selected to the conference's second team. Michalko, who leads the Tritons with 38 ejections drawn, was placed on the All-WWPA Freshman Team. Head coach Denny Harper was named WWPA Coach of the Year for the 16th time in his career. That means Harper has recognized by his colleagues as the conference's top coach for half of his 32 years coaching at UCSD. The quintuplet of Tritons to earn all-conference awards is the most for UCSD since 2005. LMU's Edgaras Asajavicius earned the WWPA Player of the Year.

LMU and UCSD are the only two teams to take home the conference crown this millennium. The Lions have won four consecutive WWPA championships since the Tritons last won it in 2006 and have represented the WWPA in the NCAA Final Four eight out of 11 years since 2000. In 2006, UCSD beat LMU 10-9 in the championship game for the Tritons' 14th conference title. Since then, UCSD has taken home fourth place, fifth place and has fallen in the title game twice to LMU in 2008 and 2009. Last season, the Tritons topped Pomona-Pitzer in the first round before falling to UC Davis in the semifinals. Santa Clara defeated UCSD for third place on the final day of competition as the Tritons took fourth place.

UCSD enters the conference tournament on a two match losing streak, albeit both losses were at the hands of top-5 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation teams. The Tritons put up a valiant effort in November 6's 9-4 loss to No. 1 UCLA, their first match against the top-ranked team since 2006. Butler and Michalko stepped up for the Tritons against No. 5 UC Irvine on November 6 at Anteater Pool, but Butler's hat trick and Michalko's pair of goals went by the wayside in UCI's 15-11 win. Prior to the contests with UCI and UCLA, UCSD won three consecutive games against UC Davis, Occidental and Santa Clara. Saber scored 10 goals over those three matches while Stiling tossed-in eight goals. Butler had eight assists and seven steals during the Tritons' three-game winning streak. He's also scored in at least a goal in his last eight matches dating back to October 12.

The Tritons trailed by one heading into the final quarter in their most recent contest against UCI on November 6, but a 6-3 run by the Anteaters in the fourth quarter helped UCI put away UCSD by four. UCSD battled back from a three-goal deficit twice in the third quarter to make it 9-8 at the start of the final stanza. However, four consecutive scores by the Anteaters but them up by five with three and a half minutes to play. Saber and Lukas Syka traded goals with the Anteaters before Donohoe tacked one on with five seconds left to spare to bring the Tritons back within four at the final whistle. Butler led the Tritons with three goals on the day, while Michalko, Syka, Saber and Donohoe finished with two scores apiece. Morton tallied 10 saves in goal.

Saber's 176 shot attempts this season are the sixth-most in a single season in UCSD history. He needs 57 more attempts to set a school record ... Morton, UCSD's all-time career saves leader with 1,033 stops, has registered at least 200 saves in each of his four seasons on campus. If he tallies 34 more saves this year, he will appear on UCSD's single-season top-10 list for saves four times when his career is complete ... UCSD is undefeated against non-MPSF teams and squads not named Loyola Marymount ... The Tritons matched a season-low with three steals against UCI ... UCSD has outscored opponents 252-195 in 2011 and is 64 of 154 (.416) on 6-on-5 advantages this season.

(Teams receiving a bye in the first round)

No. 1 Loyola Marymount
LMU is the four-time defending champion of the WWPA and has only a single loss in conference play  (10-1) this season. Led by WWPA Player of the Year Edgaras Asajivicius, the Lions put five players on the all-conference team in 2011. The Lions topped UCSD in the 2008 and 2009 title games.

No. 2 UC San Diego
The Tritons hold the most wins in conference play this season at 12-3 and surrendered their only losses this season to the top seed, LMU. With five All-WWPA selections and WWPA Coach of the Year Denny Harper at the helm, UCSD is poised to challenge for its first conference crown since 2006.

No. 3 Santa Clara
The Broncos are 17-16 overall and went 7-5 in conference play this season. SCU was granted the No. 3 seed due to a 9-6 win over UC Davis on October 9. After securing a four-game winning streak at The Bronco, October 22-23, the Broncos have dropped four of their last five contests.

No. 4 UC Davis
Chosen as the No. 2 preseason pick in the WWPA, UCD has already enjoyed one of its finest seasons to date, securing its second 20-win season in five years. The Aggies have appeared in the national top 20 all season, climbing as high as No. 9 in late September.

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