Sept. 10, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. -
After opening the 2013 season with a pair of wins at the Triton Invitational, UC Davis men's water polo will take a weekend off from competition before heading to the tough NorCal Invitational on Sept. 21-23. The Aggies picked up wins over Cal Baptist and defending Western Water Polo Association champion Air Force on Saturday before falling to No. 6 Long Beach State and No. 4 California in Sunday's portion of the tournament.
The two Day 1 victories stood as the first for the Daniel Leyson era of the program.
"I think the weekend went slightly better than some people might have thought," said the first-year head coach. "I think the wins on Saturday were great for us. To be honest, we didn't play particularly well but we fought hard and came out with a victory. Against Cal Baptist, you could see that it was our first full game. We were playing below our expectations but we were still able to win the game."
Perhaps more significant to the wins was the manner in which they transpired. Against CBU, the bulk of the scoring came from the team veterans: 11 of the 12 goals came from juniors and seniors, including four by senior attacker Bernie Rogers. However, in the Air Force victory, the younger players stepped into the fore. Freshman Zoltan Lazar recorded his first hat trick, scoring two in overtime. Sophomore Austin Beckwith, who played just 13 games in 2012, hit one in the first quarter and another in the second sudden-victory period.
The balanced attack better represents what Coach Leyson hopes for during the remainder of the season, given the relative age of his roster. "After the Cal Baptist game, when Bernie had four goals and Chris had three, I told the guys, `this is great but we can't rely on this.' If those guys hadn't shot lights out, we would have been in trouble. Overall, I think the weekend was outstanding. We had expected contributions from our more experienced players but we had some younger guys step up and get some experience."
The team's youth shows up in key areas on this year's squad. At goalkeeper, sophomore Philip Bates
entered the year with a half-season's worth of minutes while Zach Tudhope
made his debut at the Triton. At two meters, Leyson praised the work of Jacob Ley
and Tennyson May
, both redshirt freshmen. Alex Bagdasarian
, Mark Coufal
, Charlie Hargrave
and Evan MacCarthy
also saw key playing time over the weekend despite entering the year with 60 combined minutes of prior collegiate game time between the four of them.
Coufal, a 2012 Miramonte High grad, filled a crucial role in the opening weekend. On a team with no left-handers, Leyson needed a player who could man that side of the course as a righty. "That's a guy who has come a long way," he said. "When I first got here, I didn't know if he was going to make the team. He's gone from there to playing a really important role on the right side of the pool."
With four quality games in the books for 2013, the Aggies will use the upcoming bye week to step up the training. The team ended its double days with a rest cycle in preparation for the Triton Invite. Leyson will employ a similar schedule for the next stretch. "This week, we'll hit it hard then get into a resting mode for NorCal," he said. "We really want to go for it at that tournament and see what happens."
The NorCal Invite pairings will be announced later this week. Traditionally, that tournament - along with its twin SoCal Invitational - features a field of nationally ranked teams. The College Water Polo Association will announce the national coaches' poll on Wednesday.
SKIP SHOTS: The 2013 schedule on the athletics website (www.ucdavisaggies.com) has been updated to reflect new game times at the Aggie Shootout (Sept. 28-29) plus tentative pairings for Santa Clara's Rodeo tournament (Oct. 26-27)... Rogers was the team leader in numerous categories: minutes (103), goals (8), assists (5) and steals (4)... Richardson led UC Davis with 11 drawn inclusions, including a five-meter foul (he also made the penalty shot).