Photo by: Fresno Pacific Athletics
The Tritons take on Long Beach State in Thursday's NCAA Opening-Round contest.

Storm The Beach: Tritons Face Long Beach State in NCAA Opening Round on Thursday

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. — University of California San Diego director of athletics Earl Edwards stopped by to address the men’s water polo team prior to Monday’s practice, offering words of encouragement and wishing them good luck.

Needless to say, the stakes are high.

The Tritons begin National Collegiate Water Polo Championship play with an Opening-Round contest against Long Beach State on Thursday, Nov. 29, beginning at 1 p.m. The game can be streamed live here.

No. 7 UC San Diego (19-5) is one victory away from joining host and No. 1-ranked Stanford (20-2), No. 3 USC (28-3) and possibly No. 2 UCLA (22-4) as the last four teams remaining. With a win over No. 5 Long Beach State (14-11), the Tritons would face Stanford in an NCAA semifinal contest on Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at 3 p.m. PT.

The championship game will be held on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. PT.

“It’s what we live for,” said UC San Diego head coach Denny Harper. “The players really want to beat Long Beach State to get to the semifinals, because being at ‘the show’ is a whole different vibe.

“It’s huge for the program and the entire athletic department. Just to be mentioned in the same breath of (Stanford, USC and UCLA) is great for the department.”

UC San Diego reached the semifinal round in 2015 and was the national runner-up in 2000 when it defeated USC in the semifinals. That season, the Tritons became the first non-division 1 team to play in the NCAA championship game.

There’s plenty of work to be done before talk of the semifinals can begin, however. UC San Diego will have to get past a tough Long Beach State opponent that has been dreaming of a rematch ever since falling to the Tritons, 7-5, at Canyonview Aquatic Center on Sept. 19. 

The 49ers defeated Pomona-Pitzer, 12-5, in an Opening-Round game on Nov. 24 behind four goals from freshman Garrett Zaan. It was Long Beach State’s first NCAA tournament win since 1991.

For Harper, the meeting between the two teams back in September is a distant memory.

“It feels like it was three years ago,” he said. “Long Beach State is a different team now, but everyone evolves over the course of a season. I don’t think we’re the same team either. 

“The two teams are a little different now, but I anticipate it being a good game.”

UC SAN DIEGO VITALS
• Overall: 19-5
• WWPA: 6-1
• Home: 8-2
• Road: 5-1
• Neutral: 6-2
• Ranking (CWPA): 7

• Against Ranked Teams: 11-5
• Current Streak: Win 7

THE SCHEDULE
Opening Round
vs. No. 5 Long Beach State (13-11, 3-2 GCC)
Thursday, Nov. 29 • 1:00 p.m. PT
Avery Aquatic Center • Stanford, Calif.
Watch

Semifinal
vs. No. 1 Stanford (20-2, 2-1 MPSF)*
Saturday, Dec. 1 • 3:00 p.m. PT
Avery Aquatic Center • Stanford, Calif.

Championship
vs. TBD*
Sunday, Dec. 2 • 3:00 p.m. PT
Avery Aquatic Center • Stanford, Calif.

* - If necessary

NORCAL TRITON FAN SOCIAL SET FOR WEDNESDAY EVENING
Family, alumni and supporters are welcomed and encouraged to attend a free social to celebrate the 2018 UC San Diego men's water polo team. The social will be held in the Cardinal Lounge at the Sheraton Palo Alto on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and includes appetizers and a complimentary drink. Those planning to attend can register here by Tuesday, Nov. 28.

NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY
2018 marks the 15th time the Tritons have advanced to the National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship. The Tritons have previously reached the national tournament in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2015, the Tritons earned the WWPA automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament by defeating UC Davis in the WWPA Championship Final. They faced Princeton in the opening-round contest and defeated the Tigers, 12-7. In the semifinals, UC San Diego fell to top-seed and eventual national champion UCLA, 4-17, and lost California in the third-place game, 20-9. The 2000 campaign was a pinnacle year for the Tritons as they defeated USC, 9-8, in the national semifinal in Malibu to become the first non-Division I team to play in the NCAA Championship Game. UC San Diego finished third in 1995, 1998 and 2006, fourth in 1999, 2002, 2011, 2014 and 2015, sixth in 1989, 1991 and 1992, and eighth in 1993. In 1995, Harper's squad became the first Division III team to advance to the NCAA Final Four and repeated the feat in 1998 and 1999. 

TRITONS WIN 2018 WWPA CHAMPIONSHIP
The Tritons upheld their place as the No. 1 seed for this year's conference tournament, and were crowned WWPA Champions for the first time since 2015. UC San Diego defeated Fresno Pacific in the quarterfinal, 11-4, topped Air Force in the semifinal 15-3, and knocked off UC Davis in the WWPA Championship final, 11-10. 

FOUR TRITONS NAMED TO WWPA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Redshirt junior Jack Turner was named tournament MVP after recording 15 saves in the championship game victory over UC Davis. Fellow redshirt junior Kacper Langiewicz and sophomore Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt were named to the WWPA All-Tournament First Team, while sophomore Calder Hilde-Jones landed on the Second Team. 

FIVE TRITONS EARN ALL-WWPA ACCOLADES
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Turner, junior utility Skyler Munatones and sophomore utility Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt were each named All-WWPA First-Team selections, while redshirt junior Kacper Langiewicz received All-WWPA Second-Team honors. In addition, redshirt freshman Konstantin Karlov landed on the All-Freshman Team.

UCSD

TRITON NOTES

    • UC San Diego has made the National Collegiate Water Polo Championship for the 15th time in program history.
    • The Tritons finished No. 2 in the nation in 2000 and were No. 4 in 2015.
    • UC San Diego is 6-2 in neutral-site contests this season.
    • The Tritons are 11-5 this season against teams ranked in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Top 20.
    • UC San Diego has won seven-straight games and nine of its last 10 heading into the NCAA Opening Round.
    • Sophomore Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt leads UC San Diego in total points (100) and goals (68), while ranking second on the team in assists (32).
    • Turnbow-Lindenstadt's 100 points this season ranks seventh in the nation, while his 68 goals rank eighth. The sophomore's 4.17 points per game is tied for eighth in the country.
    • Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Turner has racked up 227 saves in 20 starts this season. Despite missing four games, Turner ranks 10th in the nation in saves and 10th in saves per game (10.15).
    • Turner has a .569 save percentage with a goals-against average of 8.51.
    • Junior Skyler Munatones leads UC San Diego with 37 assists.
    • Turner and Turnbow-Lindenstadt share the team lead with 23 steals apiece this season.
    • Redshirt junior Kacper Langiewicz has a team-high 53 drawn exclusions on the year.
    • Redshirt sophomore Jack Ranj has a team-high 37 exclusions. 
    • The Tritons have outscored opponents this season 323-202.
    • The third quarter has been a strength for UC San Diego this season, as the Tritons have outscored opponents 79-35 coming out of halftime.
    • UC San Diego is 87-of-238 (.366) in power play situations this season. Opponents are only 61-of-238 (.256).
    • The Tritons have committed just 276 turnovers this season, while opponents have 340.

GET TO KNOW THE 2018 TRITONS 
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).

UC SAN DIEGO NATIONAL RANKINGS
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
• Nov. 7: No. 9
• Nov. 14: No. 10
• Nov. 21: No. 7
• Nov. 28: No. 7

ABOUT LONG BEACH STATE
Roster | Schedule | Stats
• Overall: 14-11
• GCC: 3-2
• Home: 2-3
• Road: 2-4
• Neutral: 9-4
• Current Streak: Win 7
• National Ranking: 5

LONG BEACH STATE NOTES

  • Long Beach State is 14-11 overall this season and has won seven-consecutive games.
  • The 49ers won the Golden Coast Conference (GCC) tournament championship, defeating University of Pacific in the title game, 10-6
  • Long Beach State defeated Pomona-Pitzer, 12-5, in an NCAA Opening Round contest on Nov. 24.
  • The 49ers are led by junior Austin Stewart, who has recorded 64 points on 52 goals and 12 assists.
  • Freshman Garrett Zaan scored a team-high four goals in the win over Pomona-Pitzer, and has tallied 24 goals and two assists this season. Zaan is a former teammate of UC San Diego junior Skyler Munatones, as both attended Huntington Beach High School. Zaan also competed for Team USA in the 2018 FINA Youth Water Polo Championships in Szombathely, Hungary. 
  • Marwan Darwish has started 24 games in the net for the Long Beach State, recording 176 saves with a .494 save percentage and a 10.34 goals-against average. 
  • The 49ers fell to the Tritons in their only meeting this season, 7-5 on Sept. 19. 
  • UC San Diego scored the final three goals of the game to rally from an early fourth-quarter deficit in the win over Long Beach State earlier this season.
  • Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt scored twice, Cole Martinez had two assists and Jack Turner recorded 14 saves, three steals and an assist in the Tritons' victory over Long Beach State in September.
  • Jonathan Wong scored a team-high two goals for the 49ers against the Tritons, while Darwish finished with nine saves.
  • UC San Diego is 13-52 all-time against Long Beach State. 

TRITONS PICKED SECOND IN WWPA COACHES' POLL
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.

2018 WWPA MEN'S PRESEASON COACHES POLL
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

HEAD COACH DENNY HARPER
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.

LAST SEASON
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.

GEAR HERE
UC San Diego Athletics has partnered with Advanced-Online to provide a web-based, on-demand option for Triton apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 1,000 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours. Visit the site at UCSDTritonsGear.com.

FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are eighth grade or under, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UC San Diego home athletic events, and much more!

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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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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@ucsdtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (ucsdtritons).

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