Seeing Cardinal: No. 7 Tritons Face No. 1 Stanford in NCAA Semifinal on Saturday at 3 p.m.
STANFORD, Calif. — It certainly has a good ring to it.
The buzz around this weekend's National Collegiate Water Polo Championship revolves around three prestigious water polo powers: Stanford, USC and UCLA.
Then there's the fourth team, the University of California San Diego, which is thrilled to crash the party.
"It starts to sink in when you see all the social media stuff," said 39th-year head coach Denny Harper during practice on a beautiful morning in Palo Alto, Calif. "For me, when I hear someone say 'the final four teams are Stanford, UCLA, USC and UC San Diego,' I really like the sound of that."
UC San Diego (20-5) takes on tournament host and No. 1-ranked Stanford in an NCAA Semifinal on Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at 3 p.m. PT. It will be streamed live here. UCLA and USC face off in the other semifinal scheduled for 5 p.m.
The NCAA Championship game will be held on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.
The Tritons are back in the national semifinals for the first time since 2015 and for the third time in the last five seasons. UC San Diego is looking to advance to the program's first NCAA Final since 2000.
A phenomenal all-around performance in Thursday's NCAA Opening Round 14-9 victory over Long Beach State helped the Tritons get to this point. Although big games from redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Turner and sophomore Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt led the way, UC San Diego's uptempo style of play also had a major role in its success.
"We really did wear (Long Beach State) out, it was pretty obvious." said Harper. "We were tied at half and it was all us in the second half. The second major factor was the defense we played, we kind of took them out of their comfort level.
"Our signature for success has been our 5-on-6 defense. It was pretty stellar (Thursday)."
However, Saturday presents a new type of challenge. Stanford is led by redshirt sophomore center Ben Hallock, who has recorded a team-high 57 goals this season.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Hallock was named an Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) First-Team All-American, as well as Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Newcomer of the Year.
"If you ask anybody about Stanford, the first thing that comes out of their mouth in Ben Hallock," said Harper. "He's a premiere center in our sport right now, a young Olympian.
"They're known for having great, smart athletes and they like to swim. That's going to be a challenge."
UC SAN DIEGO VITALS
• Overall: 20-5
• WWPA: 6-1
• Home: 8-2
• Road: 5-1
• Neutral: 7-2
• Ranking (CWPA): 7
• Against Ranked Teams: 12-5
• Current Streak: Win 8
Sunday, Dec. 2 • 3:00 p.m. PT
Avery Aquatic Center • Stanford, Calif.
* - If necessary
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 before defeating Princeton in the Opening Round, 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 Semifinals and repeated the feat in 1998 and 1999.
- UC San Diego is in the National Collegiate Water Polo Championship for the 15th time in program history.
- The Tritons were national runner-up in 2000 and finished fourth in 2015.
- UC San Diego has won eight-straight games and 10 of its last 11.
- The Tritons are 7-2 in neutral-site contests this season.
- UC San Diego is 12-5 this season against teams ranked in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Top 20.
- Sophomore Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt ranks seventh in the nation in goals (75) and is tied for sixth in points (107). He leads the Tritons in both categories and is second on the team in assists (32).
- Turnbow-Lindenstadt scored a career-high seven goals in the NCAA Opening Round contest against Long Beach State on Nov. 29.
- Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Turner recorded 14 saves in UC San Diego’s NCAA Opening Round win over Long Beach State. His career-high for saves is 20 against UC Irvine on Sept. 1, 2018.
- Turner has 217 saves in 20 starts this season. Despite missing four games, Turner ranks ninth in the nation in saves and 10th in saves per game (10.33).
- Turner and Turnbow-Lindenstadt share the team lead with 23 steals apiece.
- Junior Skyler Munatones leads UC San Diego with 39 assists.
- Redshirt junior Kacper Langiewicz has a team-high 53 drawn exclusions.
- The Tritons have outscored opponents this season 337-211.
- The third quarter has been a strength for UC San Diego, outscoring 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 made 340.
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.
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
- UC San Diego has never beaten Stanford, and is 0-34 all-time against the Cardinal.
- The Tritons and Cardinal last played in the 2016 season opener, which was a 15-5 Stanford victory.
- UC San Diego and Stanford last met in the NCAA Tournament in the 2014 Third-Place Game, won by the Cardinal 11-20.
- Stanford is 11-1 this season in games played at Avery Aquatic Center.
- Redshirt sophomore Ben Hallock leads Stanford with 57 goals this season, including 17 multi-goal games.
- Hallock recorded a season-high eight goals in a victory over UC Irvine on Oct. 28.
- Senior goalkeeper Oliver Lewis has recorded 222 saves with season with a 7.19 goals against average.
- Stanford is coached by John Vargas, who has led the Cardinal to five appearances in the NCAA Championship and a national title in 2002.
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.
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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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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