LOS ANGELES - The UCLA men's water polo team has been selected to finish in fourth place (tied with California) among nine teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) preseason coaches' poll, as announced by the conference on Tuesday.
USC was picked to finish first, and received five of the nine possible first-place votes, collecting 61 points. Stanford was right behind the Trojans, picking up the other four first-place nods and totaled 60 points.
USC returns five All-Americans from last year’s undefeated team, and four of its top-five scorers, led by national player of the year Nikola Vavic. He shared for the conference lead with 83 goals in his junior season.
Stanford returns four All-Americans, led by first-teamers Bret Bonanni and Alex Bowen. Bonanni scored 73 goals as a freshman, ranking third in the conference.
Projected to make the largest leap in the standings this year is Pacific, collecting 47 points for third-place after coming off a sixth-place tie in 2012. MPSF Player of the Year Balazs Erdelyi totaled 83 goals, leading the conference with a 3.46 goals per game average. Also back for the Tigers is Goran Tomasevic, a three-time All-American before his 2012 redshirt season.
Tying for fourth in the poll with 41 points apiece was UCLA and California.
UCLA lost its top two scorers in Josh Samuels (Cutino Award Finalist and first team All-American and All-MPSF player in 2012) and Griffin White (second team All-American in 2012), as well as its starting goalkeeper in Matt Rapacz (second team All-American and All-MPSF in 2012) to graduation in 2012. The Bruins went 28-5 overall and 7-1 in the MPSF, advancing to the NCAA Championship game for the second consecutive year in 2012.
The Bruins also retain the services of honorable mention All-American, Chris Wendt. A senior defender, Wendt was sixth on the team in scoring with 34 goals (1.10 gpg). On the year, he drew 22 exclusions and was second on the team in field blocks with 22. He also registered 19 steals and 16 assists a year ago. He led the team in shooting percentage, scoring 54.8 percent of his shots (34-of-62).
Another senior, utility Aimone Barabino, returns for his final season in 2013. Last year, he was named to the All-MPSF Tournament Team and was chosen as an honorable mention All-MPSF selection after scoring 29 goals and tallying a team-best 64 earned exclusions. He was third on the team in shooting percentage, scoring 53.7 percent of his shots (29-of-54).
Sophomore utility Danny McClintick returns after his stellar freshman season where he finished fourth on the team in scoring with 37 goals (1.12 gpg) while making 18 starts. He was third on the squad in field blocks (15) and also registered 18 assists and 13 steals.
Senior Lucas Reynolds provides the Bruins some scoring punch at center, finishing sixth on the team last year in scoring with 33 goals (1.06 gpg). He was also third on the team in exclusions drawn (36) and led the team with six drawn penalty shots.
Redshirt freshman Garrett Danner in all likelihood will start in goal for the Bruins. He led Team USA to a pair of fifth-place finishes this summer at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia and at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships in Szombathely, Hungary. He finished as the World University Games’ leading goalkeeper in saves with 90 (11.3 spg), while his save percentage of 59.6 (stopped 90-of-151 opponent shots), led all 12 starting goalkeepers in the tournament. He also led all goalies in steals with 15 (1.9 spg).
The Bears welcome back five All-Americans. Collin Smith leads that group, averaging 2.65 goals last year and finishing fifth in the MPSF.
UC Santa Barbara placed sixth with 28 points, followed by Long Beach State (23), UC Irvine (12), and Pepperdine (11).
Pacific is this year’s host for the MPSF Championship Tournament (Nov. 29-Dec. 1). Stanford will be hosting the NCAA Tournament (Dec. 7-8). Since its inaugural season in 1992, the MPSF has captured all 21 NCAA titles in men’s water polo.
Opening weekend to the 2013 season is September 7-8, as the Bruins' host the UCLA Invitational in Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday, and then head to San Diego for the Triton Invitational on Sunday. The Bruins will have five nationally televised games, beginning on Friday, Sept. 27, when they host Pepperdine at 4:00 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.
2013 MPSF PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
|Rank||Team||Points (First-Place)||2012 Record||2012 MPSF Record (Finish)|
|1||USC||61 (5)||29-0||8-0 (1st)|
|2||Stanford||60 (4)||16-7||5-3 (4th)|
|6||UC Santa Barbara||28||16-12||1-7 (8th)|
|7||Long Beach State||23||24-8||4-4 (5th)|
|8||UC Irvine||12||14-12||0-8 (9th)|