LOS ANGELES - The UCLA men's water polo team has been selected to finish in second place among nine teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) preseason coaches' poll, as announced by the conference on Thursday.
Stanford was picked to finish first, and received five of the nine possible first-place votes, collecting 60 points. The Bruins earned three first-place votes to come in with 58 points. USC totaled 53 points and earned the final first-place nod to rank third.
The Cardinal reached the NCAA Semifinals last year after sharing the MPSF regular season title, and return All-Americans Bret Bonanni, (97 goals in 2013—2nd most in MPSF history), Alex Bowen (71 goals), BJ Churnside (45 goals) and sophomore goalkeeper Drew Holland (9.08 saves per game, 7.44 goals-against average).
UCLA also grabbed a share of the regular season title a year ago after being picked to finish fourth. The Bruins' 28-4 record (.875) was the best in the country last year (tied with USC) as UCLA took two-of-three from the NCAA Champions in 2013. The Bruins welcome back their top three scorers in Paul Reynolds (47 goals), Danny McClintick (38 goals), and Ryder Roberts (36 goals), as well as the MPSF Newcomer of the Year in goalkeeper Garrett Danner (MPSF-Best 6.32 goals-against average).
USC senior Kostas Genidounias enters his final season with a chance to take over as the Trojans’ all-time leading scorer, while fellow seniors Marc Vonderweidt and Rex Butler also return with championship experience.
The coaches placed California fourth with 42 points, as the Golden Bears return All-Americans Aleksa Saponjic (44 goals-2013) and Colin Mulcahy.
Long Beach State was fifth with 32 points, as 2012 All-Americans Dan Matulis and Nick Rascon are back from redshirt seasons, joining four of the squad’s top five scorers from 2013.
Pacific (28) and UC Santa Barbara (27) were tightly contested in the poll, followed by UC Irvine (16) and Pepperdine (8).
Opening weekend of the 2014 season is September 6-7, while MPSF Conference competition begins September 27. Long Beach State is this year’s site of the MPSF Championship Tournament (November 21-23), where for the first time since 2002, all nine teams will compete for automatic entry to the NCAA Tournament (at UC San Diego, December 6-7). Since its inaugural season in 1992, the MPSF has captured all 22 NCAA titles in men’s water polo.
The Bruins open the 2014 season at the UC San Diego Triton Invitational, where they will face Redlands in the season-opener on Sept. 6 at 9:20 a.m. UCLA will face Cal Baptist at 12:30 p.m. later that day and will conclude with two games on Sept. 7. The Bruins will kick off their home slate with the UCLA Invitational, to be held the entire day of Sept. 13 at Spieker Aquatics Center.
2014 MPSF PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
|Rank||Team||Points (First-Place)||2013 Record||2013 MPSF Record (Finish)|
|1||Stanford||60 (5)||23-6||7-1 (1st-Tie)|
|2||UCLA||58 (3)||28-4||7-1 (1st-Tie)|
|3||USC||53 (1)||28-4||5-3 (4th)|
|5||Long Beach State||32||20-14||1-7 (7th-Tie)|
|7||UC Santa Barbara||27||17-11||3-5 (6th)|
|8||UC Irvine||16||13-15||1-7 (7th-Tie)|