UC Davis opens NCAA play on Thursday

Nov. 27, 2017

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DAVIS, Calif. – Armed with a 22-6 overall record, a No. 8 national ranking and its second consecutive Western Water Polo Association title, the UC Davis men’s water polo team will travel more than 400 miles to USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center to face a familiar opponent: No. 5 University of the Pacific. First sprint is 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Based in Stockton, the 20-5 Tigers are geographically the closest collegiate men’s water polo program to the Aggies. Pacific also has 63 previous meetings with UC Davis, the fourth-longest series history in its record book (behind California, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara). The Aggies went undefeated in the WWPA, and claiming a 9-6 win in the conference title game against the host school (UC San Diego). The Tigers went undefeated in the Gold Coast Conference, capturing a 9-5 win in the title game against the host school (UC Irvine). 

On top of all of this, the two teams squared off for each other’s regular-season finale: a 13-10 Pacific win in Stockton back on November 11. That game increased Pacific’s win streak to 10 straight. It also halted UC Davis’ win streak at – wait for it – 10 straight.

For all of this, UC Davis’ Child & Meisel Families Director of Men’s Water Polo Daniel Leyson has a world of respect for James Graham, now in his 10th season at the Tiger helm. “James is a great coach. He’s one of the most innovative coaches in the game right now, and he has an excellent team.” said Leyson. “To prepare for them, you have to be ready for tons of different combinations. It’s impossible to prepare for. He’s done a really good job.”

Indeed, both teams bring an extremely diverse attack. Nine different Aggies have scored at least 20 goals this year, with junior lefty Ido Goldschmidt leading the way with 59 goals and 43 assists. Adding to that scoring column are Marcus Anderson (45), Spencer Galli (36), Morgan Olson-Fabbro (35), Yurii Hanley (27), Jack Stafford (26), Cory Laidig (25), Eric Martel (24) and Holden Tamblyn (22).

Highlighting Pacific’s scoring punch are Luke Pavillard (74 goals), Engin Ege Colak (68), Ben Stevenson (44), Kale Ai (42) and Devon Thumwood (41). Four different countries are represented among that group: Pavillard from Australia, Colak from Turkey, Thumwood from Canada; with Ai (Hawaii) and Stevenson (Nevada) hailing from outside California.

UC Davis fields a platoon at goalkeeper, with junior R.J. Quigley seeing a light majority of cage time over freshman Jonah Addington. Quigley has 14 assists and 21 steals to go with 111 blocks. Addington has 108 saves against 84 goals allowed for a .563 average. Their counterpart, true freshman John Hedges, owns most of the minutes played in the Tiger net. He enters the weekend with 185 saves and a team-high 82 steals.

According to Leyson, his team’s 2016 experience in the postseason plus its admitted underdog status could factor into his team’s success in this final weekend. 

“We’re not satisfied by just getting here. Our goal is to try to win the game,” said Leyson. “A lot of our guys were in this game last year, so we have the experience of being in it. Last year was a big step, but now we want to go one step further.”

“Based on the rankings, our results against common opponents, and our last game, the expectation is that Pacific should win the game. We have an opportunity to go down there and play as free as we possibly we can, with no pressure. Really, the expectation is on them, so maybe they’ll be feeling more pressure.”

USC will stream both of Thursday’s “opening round” games, while the NCAA will stream the national semifinals and final. Links to this video plus all live stats (via FOSH) can be found on the tournament central website (see above). 

Additional tips for media/broadcasters are available below.


  • This is UC Davis men’s water polo’s sixth NCAA postseason appearance, joining 1974 (5th), 1975 (8th), 1996 (4th), 1997 (3rd) and 2016 (t5th).
  • Thanks to a generous donation from the families of two former UC Davis student-athletes, head coach Daniel Leyson’s full title is the Child & Meisel Families Director of Men’s Water Polo... Announced last January, this is the first endowed coaching position in the 110-year history of the UC Davis athletics department.
  • The 2017 Aggies are one win away from tying the program record for season victories, set last year (23-6)... The previous record was the 22-7 mark set by the 2007 team, which also held the school benchmark for winning percentage (.759) until last year.
  • Senior Cory Laidig became the third straight Aggie to earn WWPA Player of the Year honors, along with current junior Ido Goldschmidt (2016) and Sean Grab (2015)... Grab, along with other UC Davis MWP alumni, was on hand at UC San Diego’s Canyonview Aquatic Center during the conference title game.
  • Laidig was one of six Aggies to earn All-WWPA honors... Goldschmidt joined him on the first team, while junior attacker Marcus Anderson and junior goalkeeper R.J. Quigley made the second team... Senior attacker Spencer Galli captured honorable mention, while redshirt freshman attacker Jack Stafford made the WWPA All-Freshman squad.
  • SIBLING CONNECTIONS: Marcus Anderson’s younger brother, Keenan, is a redshirt freshman on the Aggies... Both brothers enjoyed hat tricks in the October 15 conference win against Concordia...Yurii Hanley has a twin sister (Alexa) on the UC Davis swimming & diving team; Spencer Galli has a younger sister (Quinn) on the Aggie women’s water polo team... Nick Coufal had an older brother (Mark) who played for the UC Davis men’s water polo team.
  • SCHOOL RECORDS: The 10 straight wins from Sept. 30 to Nov. 4 tied the school record, first set in 2007... As a team, the Aggies enter Thursday’s game with 394 goals, six behind the 1996 benchmark of 400 (done in 34 games)... The 2017 totals of 270 assists and 347 steals are already season records... With 43 assists, Goldschmidt needs just one more to tie Grant Muenter’s season record, set in 2008... He has already run away with the career record, entering the weekend with 124... Matt Richardson held the previous mark of 97... All “extended stats” records date back to 2004, while school goals/saves records date back to 1993.


  • ...recognized as the No. 6 public university in the nation from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education in late September. It also rates 46th overall (public and private combined) by that publication, and one of only eight public schools in the top 50.
  • ...rated No. 9 in contributions to the “public good,” according to Washington Monthly’s rankings of 303 public and private national universities.
  • ...ranked 6th nationwide for most students hired by top companies in and around Silicon Valley, according to Business Insider in 2015.
  • ...top-ranked University of California campus based on earnings by young alumni (10 years after enrollment) per a 2015 Brookings Institute study of the U.S ED’s College Scorecard database.
  • ...ranked No. 1 nationally in agricultural sciences (Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch 2011), animal science (U.S. News & World Report 2016), ecology and environment (TRSW), food science and nutrition (TRSW), plant science (USN&WR), and veterinary medicine (USN&WR). Also ranked No. 1 in the world in veterinary science (QS World University Rankings 2017).