Sept. 23, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - Following a 12th-place finish at the tough NorCal tournament, the No. 13 UC Davis men's water polo team hosts its home opener in the form of the two-day Aggie Shootout at Schaal Aquatics Center, starting with Saturday's 10 a.m. game against California. The Shootout also features former Western Water Polo Association member Redlands, current leaguemate Santa Clara and former NAIA program Fresno Pacific.
The recent NorCal Invite produced results that were both "encouraging and disappointing at the same time" for head coach Daniel Leyson. On the one hand, his Aggies picked off another conference win in Saturday's victory over Santa Clara. Furthermore, that UC Davis came within a hair of upsetting seventh-ranked UC Irvine in Sunday's early game.
On the other hand, the Aggies gave up a key possession with 90 seconds left in regulation and surrendered a 6-on-5 goal less than a minute later in erasing the best hopes for an upset against the Anteaters. UC Davis then finished the day with a disappointing loss to No. 16 Concordia.
"We really should have beaten Santa Clara by more but we let them back into the game and had to hang on to win. The game went sideways," said Leyson. "We completely had the game against Irvine. We had it won but then we let it slip away. That was really a great opportunity for us.
Despite the disappointment of the Concordia loss and a 1-3 weekend, Leyson was pleased to see the progress his team made during its third weekend of the year. "You can see us scraping up the mountain, one step at a time. It's a painful, arduous process," he said. "We're working really hard and giving a lot of effort, but we're not playing that smart. If you play that way, a lot of games can end up in frustration. We have to find a way to be smarter, to become better water polo players - reading the game better and understanding situations better. Having a feel for when it's time to do certain things. And that comes from having game experience."
Junior Chris Richardson and senior Bernie Rogers led the Aggies with nine goals each during the NorCal event. Sophomore Alex Bagdasarian, who saw just 40 minutes of playing time at the Triton Invite and 21 minutes as a redshirt freshman all last year, scored four goals for the weekend -- his first as an Aggie.
The Aggies now look forward to playing in the more familiar Schaal venue, where they will take on Cal and Redlands on Saturday followed by Fresno Pacific on Sunday. (Santa Clara will not play UC Davis on this weekend, coming into town for a lone contest with the Bulldogs.)
Always a contender for the NCAA title, the Golden Bears lost a couple of close battles to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation archrivals UCLA and Stanford to finish fourth at their own NorCal tournament. Redshirt freshman Ferrell South scored two goals in Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Bruins, then Colin Mulcahy, Aleksa Saponjic and Luka Ivanovic matched that total in the 12-10 setback to the Cardinal. Saponjic, a junior attacker and Belgrade native who scored a double hat trick against Long Beach State on Saturday, leads Cal with 14 goals in seven games.
No. 19 Redlands extended its win streak to six after going 4-0 at the Lancer Invitational at Cal Baptist over the weekend. This highlights a season in which the Bulldogs upset defending WWPA champ Air Force by a 12-11 score at the Triton Invitational - eerily similar to UC Davis' 12-11 sudden victory over the Falcons the day before. Redlands return two 2012 All-Americans in senior driver Clint Freeman and junior driver Michael Robinson.
Fresno Pacific improved to 4-3 after the Lancer Invite, with a 14-6 setback to Redlands standing as the lone loss. Junior driver Zlatko Vlatic scored eight goals for the weekend, four in Saturday's 12-9 victory over Occidental. The Sunbirds also had a 5-0 forfeit win over Chapman and a 10-8 victory against LaVerne while at CBU.
Cal ranks among the elite Division I major programs, Redlands has ruled the Division III poll for two weeks and Fresno Pacific continues its reclassification to NCAA Division II. However, Leyson has little interest in which team lines up across the course from his, preferring that his Aggies focus on the Aggies. "Our focus is that it's not who we play but how we play," he said. "We need to concern ourselves with getting better in our system. We'll build from there and start worrying about other teams later. Let's work on ourselves first."
2013 DAVIS SHOOTOUT SCHEDULE
Schaal Aquatics Center Sept. 28-29
Dark caps are listed first.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 28
UC Davis vs. California, 10 a.m.
California vs. Redlands, 11:30 a.m.
UC Davis vs. Redlands, 2:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 29
Redlands vs. Santa Clara, 10 a.m.
UC Davis vs. Fresno Pacific, 11:30 a.m.
Fresno Pacific vs. Redlands, 1:30 p.m.
PARKING NOTE: Lot 56 will be closed to the general public on Saturday due to the football game (except for qualifying TeamAggie members). Water polo spectators should park in Lot 53, located west of the genome center; or in Lots 50 and 55, located south of Schaal Aquatics Center and the hammer throw area. Parking will be free on Sunday.