Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Senior Alessandro Valania and the Tritons head north to face Santa Clara and UC Davis this week.

Q&A With Senior Alessandro Valania as No. 10 Tritons Head North to Wrap Up Regular Season


LA JOLLA, Calif. — The No. 10-ranked University of California San Diego men's water polo team concludes Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) regular-season play this week, as the Tritons head north to face No. 14 Santa Clara on Thursday, Nov. 1, before taking on No. 9 UC Davis on Saturday, Nov. 3. 

Thursday's contest against Santa Clara will be streamed live, and there will be live stats for both games.

UC San Diego (14-5, 4-1 WWPA) is currently tied for second place in the WWPA standings with Loyola Marymount (11-11, 4-1), and just one game behind first-place UC Davis (13-7, 5-0). Loyola Marymount plays at UC Davis on Thursday.

The Tritons are coming off a home victory over then-No. 13 Princeton on Oct. 27, which was the final home game at Canyonview Aquatic Center for six seniors. One of those seniors is Alessandro Valania, who is a native of Savona, Italy.

UC San Diego Athletics caught up with Alessandro to discuss how he began playing water polo and what he enjoys most about.

Question: Growing up in Italy, how did you begin playing water polo?
Alessandro: "I started playing soccer and swimming when I was a kid and at some point, around 10-11 years old, I was too bored to keep swimming. My father said, ‘What if you keep swimming and we put a ball in your hands?’ In Savona, there’s very good swimming and water polo clubs. So I moved to the water polo club and I really loved it. I never stopped."

Q: What do you enjoy most about playing water polo?
Alessandro: "I've always liked playing team sports. I love the possibility of sharing amazing moments with other people and sacrificing for others. Everyone is in it together."

Q: What is the hardest part about playing water polo?
Alessandro: "Recognizing the situation. Water polo is a situational sport, so every play and every game is different. You have to be mentally prepared to recognize all the situations and react in time to make the best decision."

Q: What's the biggest difference between being a competitive swimmer and playing water polo?
Alessandro: "With swimming, you prepare before and then just do your race. In Water polo there’s different things that affect the game and affect the team. You have to be more mentally tough."

• Overall: 14-5
• WWPA: 4-1
• Home: 8-2
• Road: 3-1
• Neutral: 3-2
• Ranking (CWPA): 10

• Against Ranked Teams: 8-5
• Current Streak: Win 2

Game 1
vs. No. 14 Santa Clara (10-10, 2-3 WWPA)
Thursday, Nov. 1 • 3 p.m.
Sullivan Aquatic Center • Santa Clara, Calif.
Watch Live   Live Stats

Game 2
vs. No. 9 UC Davis (14-6, 5-0 WWPA)

Saturday, Nov. 3 • 11 a.m.
Schaal Aquatics Center • Davis, Calif.
Live Stats

UC San Diego returns six seniors and welcomes seven newcomers, six of which are freshmen. Eight of the team's nine-leading scorers from 2017 are back on campus, led by top scorer and ACWPC All-American Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt. In addition, redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Turner rejoins the Tritons after missing the entire 2017 season due to injury. Meanwhile, junior Skyler Munatones, senior Alessandro Valania, junior Cooper Milton, senior captain Kevin Asplund, junior Noah Carniglia, sophomore Kacper Langiewicz, senior Carson Ivancovich, redshirt sophomore Jack Ranj and redshirt junior goalkeeper Sam Thompson remain from last season's squad, while senior captain Cole Martinez and junior transfer Myles Martinez are also expected to have a big role.

Twenty-six of the 29 Tritons on the roster are California natives, with the exception of junior Alessandro Valania from Savona, Italy as well as freshmen brothers Gonzalo Rivera and Jorge Rivera from Madrid, Spain. Local products include Kacper Langiewicz (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), Cooper Milton (San Diego/Cathedral Catholic HS), Cole Martinez (San Diego/La Jolla HS), Myles Martinez (San Diego/La Jolla HS), Collin Sullivan (Escondido/San Pasqual HS), Jack Ranj (San Diego/Westview HS), Konstantin Karlov (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and Bennett Kienast (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS).

For full rankings click here.
• Preseason:  No. 12
• Sept. 5: No. 12
• Sept. 12: No. 11
• Sept. 19: No. 11
• Sept. 26: No. T-8
• Oct. 3: No. 8
• Oct. 10: No. 11
• Oct. 17: No. 10
• Oct. 24: No. 10
• Oct. 31: No. 10

The UC San Diego men's water polo team was predicted to finish second in the 2018 Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) standings according to a preseason poll of the league's coaches. It is the second-consecutive season UC San Diego was picked to finish second.

1.  UC Davis, 49 points (7 first-place votes)
2.  UC San Diego, 42 (1)
T-3.  Cal Baptist, 34
T-3.  Loyola Marymount, 34 
5.  Air Force, 22
6.  Santa Clara, 20
7.  Concordia, 16
8.  Fresno Pacific, 7

Roster | Schedule | Stats
• Overall: 10-10
• WWPA: 2-3
• Home: 4-2
• Road: 2-5
• Neutral: 4-3
• Current Streak: Lost 1
• National Ranking: 14

UC San Diego is 42-2 all-time against Santa Clara and has won 11-straight contests between the two. The Tritons defeated the Broncos, 15-7, in the MPSF Invitational on Oct. 13. 

Roster | Schedule | Stats
• Overall: 14-6
• WWPA: 5-0
• Home: 4-3
• Road: 4-1
• Neutral: 6-2
• Current Streak: Lost 1
• National Ranking: 9

UC San Diego is 47-22 all-time against UC Davis. The Tritons look at avenge a close 11-12 loss in the MPSF Invitational on Oct. 14. 

UC San Diego head coach Denny Harper is in his 39th season leading the Tritons and enters the 2018 campaign with a career record of 643-478-4 (.576). An 18-time WWPA Coach of the Year and 15-time ACWPC National Coach of the Year honoree, Harper has led the Tritons to 18 WWPA titles and 14 appearances in the NCAA Championship. Last season, he was named the ACWPC Division II Coach of the Year for the seventh-straight year.

UC San Diego finished the 2017 season at 11-14 overall, highlighted by a runner-up performance in the WWPA Tournament. The Tritons, the tournament's No. 2 seed with a 6-1 regular-season league record, defeated Santa Clara and California Baptist to advance to the WWPA Championship game against UC Davis. UC San Diego fought hard against No. 8-ranked UC Davis, but ultimately fell by a score of 9-6.

In 2017, the Tritons won nine games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Top-20 poll throughout the course of the season. UC San Diego was ranked as high as No. 12 nationally and faced a total of 11 teams ranked in the top-10.

Head coach Denny Harper was named the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Division II Coach of the Year, while senior Arman Momdzhyan was tabbed Player of the Year. In addition, goalkeeper Sam Thompson and utility Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt each earned All-America accolades.

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Following this week's action, the Tritons will host exhibition contests against Sunset San Diego and the Olympic Club on Saturday, Nov. 10. UC San Diego begins WWPA Tournament play on Nov. 16 in Fresno, Calif.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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