DAVIS, Calif. - The 12-ranked University of California San Diego men’s water polo team was picked to finish second in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) by the league’s head coaches. The preseason poll was released Thursday.
No. 9 UC Davis was voted as the favorite to win the conference with five first-place votes for 47 points. The Tritons, who have won three of the last four WWPA crowns, received the other three first-place votes and 45 points. No. 16 Cal Baptist and No. 17 Loyola Marymount tied for third with 34 points. Fifth-place belongs to RV Air Force with 23 points. Receiving votes Santa Clara, Concordia and Fresno Pacific rounded out the final three spots with 21, 12 and eight points, respectively.
UC San Diego enters its 2017 campaign coming off of a 15-8 overall season, highlighted by a runner-up performance in the WWPA Tournament. The Tritons, finishing with a 5-1 regular-season league record, defeated Fresno Pacific and Loyola Marymount to advance to the WWPA Championship game against UC Davis. UCSD fell to the Aggies by a score of 12-8.
In his 38th year at the helm, head coach Denny Harper, the 2016 Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Division II Coach of the Year, and the Tritons will have big shoes to fill with the departure of All-American utility Nick Alexander. UCSD also graduated utility players in Jack Ellinthorpe, Andy Moore, and Nassim Hmeidan.
UCSD welcomes 11 newcomers, including nine freshmen, to the team and returns 15 players including senior All-American utility Arman Momdzhyan (44 goals, 10 assists and 10 steals in 2016). Sophomore utility Skyler Munatones (34 goals, 26 assists and 15 steals), junior utility Kevin Asplund (14 goals, 5 assists and 21 steals), and junior goalie Jack Turner (248 saves, 14 assists and 35 steals) will also be familiar faces.
The Tritons open up conference play on Thursday, Sept. 14 against Fresno Pacific at 1 p.m. They will be in pursuit of their 17th WWPA crown and 13th NCAA Championship appearance.
The 2017 WWPA Tournament will be hosted by UC San Diego, Nov. 17-19 at Canyonview Aquatic Center. The winner earns the WWPA's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, Dec. 2-3 in Los Angeles.
UC San Diego kicks off its 2017 season by hosting the 11-team Triton Invitational, Saturday, Sept. 2 and Sunday, Sept. 3 at Canyonview Aquatic Center. The Tritons play Chapman in the first game of the tournament Saturday at 8 a.m. For a complete tournament schedule, click here.
2017 WWPA PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. No. 9 UC Davis - 47 points (5 first-place votes)
2. No. 12 UC San Diego - 45 (3)
T3. No. 17 Loyola Marymount - 34
T3. No. 16 Cal Baptist - 34
5. RV Air Force - 23
6. RV Santa Clara - 21
7. Concordia - 12
8. Fresno Pacific - 8