No. 10 UC Davis returns to WWPA play at No. 19 Air Force

Sept. 27, 2017

DAVIS, Calif. - While Daniel Leyson’s oft-repeated season goals remain the same from year to year – that is, win the Western Water Polo Association championship and hold a team GPA of 3.0 or better – the Child And Meisel Families Director of Men’s Water Polo’s additional less-cited objective is to vault his 10th-ranked UC Davis program into the next tier of the national rankings.

As of Wednesday’s new national coaches’ poll, that section of the national ziggurat comprises the usual suspects of No. 5 Pacific, No. 6 Long Beach State, No. 7 UC Irvine, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara and No. 9 Pepperdine. During September, the Aggies faced four of those teams six times: the Anteatesr and 49ers at the Triton Invite, the 49ers and Waves at the Aggie Roundup, the Waves and Gauchos at the Mountain Pacific Invitational. Two of the contests have gone to extra frames to decide, including the second sudden-victory battle against Pepperdine a Friday ago.  

To Leyson, the difference between his emerging UC Davis program and that group is razor-thin. “It’s not much, I’ll tell you that,” said the veteran coach. “The thing about the Santa Barbara game is that we flat-out did not play well. It was probably our worst performance of the year. Sure, Santa Barbara was putting a lot of pressure on us, which we expected, but we made a lot of mistakes that are totally within our control. We didn’t pass the ball well. We didn’t execute well. We didn’t capitalize on opportunities, especially on 6-on-5.”

The level of physicality brought by such teams as LBSU and UCSB now prepares the Aggies for their next foe: the T19th-ranked U.S. Air Force Academy. And while the Falcons may not hold the national rank that the 49ers and Waves boast, and although UC Davis has already defeated AFA by scores of 12-8 (at the Triton Invite) and 18-8 (at the MP Invite), Leyson knows that none of those factors matter this weekend.

“The results of the past are not in any way indicative on how this game will go, especially at their pool, so we have be ready,” he said.

AIR FORCE (2-8) finished 14th at the Southern California tourney, picking off a 9-7 win over Loyola Marymount in Saturday’s portion. Senior Garrett Fisk – an alumnus of Davis High and the Davis WPC – leads the Falcons with 15 goals, 18 drawn exclusions and 11 steals, while providing an imposing 6-foot-5, 216-pound frame at two meters. 

Oddly, the toughest physical obstacle for Leyson’s Aggies cannot be measured in height and weight; rather it’s the overall game environment caused by an indoor pool at altitude. “Air Force is always difficult,” Leyson said. “Their home court advantage is significant, and a lot of your guys have not been out there before. They’ll see that the pool is narrow, the water feels weird, the lighting is strange, and it’s hard to breathe. It’s a big challenge, and Air Force is really dangerous.”

Fortunately, a good number of UC Davis players remain from the team that battled those conditions at the conference tournament in 2015. Five of the team’s top scorers made that trip, namely junior Ido Goldschmidt (25), junior Marcus Anderson (21), senior Spencer Galli (16), senior Cory Laidig (12) and junior Riley Venne (11). 

Nonetheless, Leyson does not see the upcoming weekend as a break in the schedule, even though September had consisted of a string of tournaments. “We’re not shifting gears. September is full throttle up to this game, and only after do we have a short break. We only have our alumni game [on October 7]. But in no way are we slowing down for this game.”

SKIP SHOTS: The goalie battle continues between program veteran R.J. Quigley and true freshman Jonah Addington... Addington holds the edge in save efficiency, stopping 52.5 percent of attempts on goal to Quigley’s 42.9 success rate... However, Quigley has 6 assists and 6 steals for the year, including 3 and 5, respectively, during the Mountain Pacific Invite... Junior Ido Goldschmidt scored 12 goals during the MP tourney, taking over the overall team scoring lead from fellow junior Marcus Anderson (25 to 21)... Goldschmidt, Nick Coufal, Yurii Hanley and Cory Laidig each performed their first hat tricks of the year last weekend... Coufal’s three goals vs. UCSD was his first collegiate hat trick.

Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley. The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal, and among the top 10 public universities nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation’s best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.

Season and single-game tickets for all UC Davis fall sports are now on sale by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at (530) 752-AGS1 or by visiting us online at