Aggies' WWPA title defense begins Friday

Nov. 14, 2017

DAVIS, Calif. - For all of the achievements and milestones the 2017 UC Davis men’s water polo season has brought, everything Child And Meisel Families Director of Men’s Water Polo Daniel Leyson and his Aggie squad has sought boils down to what happens during the three-day Western Water Polo Association championship tournament at UC San Diego this weekend.

The top-seeded and No. 9-ranked Aggies open the weekend with eighth-seeded Fresno Pacific at 11 a.m. on Friday. 

Indeed, this year has seen UC Davis post its third consecutive undefeated WWPA season. The team has ranked in the national top 10 from the preseason through the most recent poll (released every Wednesday). One more victory would clinch back-to-back 20-win seasons. In the end, the team’s primary goal each year is to win the conference title, an objective finally reached last season after a 19-year drought.

Setting the stage for the weekend was a Saturday regular-season finale at No. 5 Pacific. UC Davis lost the contest, 13-10, the Tigers’ closest margin for a lower-ranked team along with then-No. 6 Long Beach State, which fell by that identical score back on September 24. The Aggies suffered a 5-0 deficit to start the contest, but hung tough the rest of the way.

To Leyson, the greater purpose of the Pacific visit was to keep his Aggies’ game sharp before the conference tournament. “We wanted to make sure that we went down there, be a worthy opponent, and give them a strong game. That’s exactly what we did,” he said.

Moreover, the Aggies’ strong finish to the regular season provides another glimpse at the strides they have made since their September 2 opener. “The team has bought into the idea of getting better in every game and every workout,” Leyson said. “They have worked extremely hard. I think we have improved in every aspect of the game. That being said, there are still ways we can get better and we want to hone in on those this week so that we’re ready to go.”

With a 7-0 conference record, UC Davis holds the top seed in the tourney, with host UC San Diego in the No. 2 spot of the bracket at 6-1. Cal Baptist, Concordia, Air Force, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara and Fresno Pacific. As of the November 8 rankings, only the Tritons (No. 12) and Lancers (No. 18) appeared in the top 20, with the remaining field among the Receiving Votes list or unranked altogether.

However, make no mistake: Coach Leyson is experienced enough to be ready for everyone... and underestimate no one.

Bear in mind, last year’s squad had a 21-5 record and a No. 8 national ranking heading into the WWPA semifinal, but barely hung on to a 5-4 win over then-No. 15 CBU. In 2015, the Aggies were the No. 1 seed and the No. 9 team in the country, yet had to overcome a 6-3 deficit to sneak past Baptist in the semifinal; then suffered an upset at the hands of the third-seeded Tritons. 

In 2014, top-seeded UC Davis clawed its way to a tough 9-7 victory against then-No. 4 seed LMU in the semifinal round. The next day, the Aggies shot just 4-for-32 in a championship final setback to UCSD. Adding to the challenge is the full eight-team field, meaning the No. 1 seed no longer has a Friday bye.

“The fact of the matter is that we have to prepare for a bunch of different teams without looking past any one of them,” said Leyson. “There is a lot of preparation that goes into this, and a lot of things we need to be ready for. Really, it comes down to how we play, how well we react to different situations, and how well we handle adverse conditions. It’s how we handle ourselves.”

Fortunately, Leyson’s troops have handled themselves splendidly throughout 2017, particularly against the WWPA membership. Besides the 7-0 conference record, the Aggies tangled with Air Force and UCSD each at the Triton Invite, picking up wins in all four meetings. UC Davis also makes its third trip to Canyonview Aquatic Center this year, as the conference matchup took place in La Jolla.

The Aggie offense, with a record-pace average of 13.84 goals per game (346 total), boasts an incredibly balanced attack. No fewer than eight players have netted at least 20 goals this year: Ido Goldschmidt (54), Marcus Anderson (43), Spencer Galli (30), Morgan Olson-Fabbro (28), Yurii Hanley (26), Cory Laidig (23), Jack Stafford (20) and Holden Tamblyn (20). A ninth scorer, center Eric Martel, only misses that list because he missed seven games due to injury at the start of the year.

Defensively, UC Davis has allowed just 8.01 goals per contest (201 total) with a stifling .346 success rate on five-man defense. Hanley (35) and Laidig (33) lead the team in steals. Junior R.J. Quigley and true freshman Jonah Addington have split up goalkeeping chore, with their different styles yielding different results. Quigley has largely been a playmaker, tallying totals of 19 steals and 13 assists. Addington’s 6-foot-6 size makes him the more prototypical shot-blocker, with his 101 saves on 78 goals allowed translating to a .564 average. Quigley’s assists are the most by an Aggie goalie since Mike McGee recorded 19 (in 886 minutes) in 2007, while Addington’s efficiency is the best by a UC Davis net-minder since Kevin Peat’s .574 in 2011.

A complete tournament central page, complete with information on all eight participants plus live links to and video, is available at

UC San Diego • Canyonview Aquatic Center

Game 1 - #1 UC Davis vs. #8 Fresno Pacific, 11 a.m.
Game 2 - #2 UC San Diego vs. #7 Santa Clara, 12:45 p.m.
Game 3 - #3 Cal Baptist vs. #6 Loyola Marymount, 4 p.m.
Game 4 - #4 Concordia vs. #5 Air Force, 5:45 p.m.

Game 5 - Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 3, 11 a.m.
Game 6 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 4, 12:45 p.m.
Game 7 (Semifinal #1) - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 4, 4 p.m.
Game 8 (Semifinal #2) - Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 5:45 p.m.

Game 9 (7th Place) - Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 8 a.m.
Game 10 (5th Place) - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 9:40 a.m.
Game 11 (3rd Place) - Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 11:20 a.m.
Game 12 (Championship) - Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 1 p.m.

ABOUT UC DAVIS: 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.

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