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Men's Water Polo - Thu, Aug. 31, 2017

Nine months removed from winning the Western Water Polo Association title and earning the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, the UC Davis men's water polo team was picked to defend its conference crown according to a vote of the league's head coaches released on Thursday afternoon.

DAVIS, Calif. -- Nine months removed from winning the Western Water Polo Association title and earning the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, the UC Davis men's water polo team was picked to defend its conference crown according to a vote of the league's head coaches released on Thursday afternoon.

In a close race for the top two spots, the Aggies received five first-place votes and 47 points overall to just edge rival UC San Diego, which earned the remaining three first-place nods and 45 points to finish second.

Loyola Marymount and Cal Baptist, which battled in the third-place match (won by the Lions, 11-9) at last year's conference tournament, were tied for third with 34 points apiece, and were followed by Air Force (23 points), Santa Clara (21), Concordia (12), and Fresno Pacific (eight), to round out the poll.

UC Davis, which finished with a program-record 23 wins overall and 6-0 in the WWPA in 2016, returns five of its six leading scorers from a season ago, including All-American and reigning WWPA Player of the Year, Ido Goldschmidt, who finished with 48 goals and 42 assists as a sophomore. All-conference selections Marcus Anderson (32 goals, 24 assists), Cory Laidig (35 goals, 28, assists, 44 steals), and Yurii Hanley (19 goals, 23 assists), also return to lead the Aggies, who enter the season ranked No. 9 in the nation according to the Collegiate Water Polo Association's preseason poll.

The Tritons, who fell to the Aggies in last year's conference tournament championship game and enter the year ranked No. 12 in the nation according to the CWPA, finished last season at 15-8 overall and 5-1 in conference play. UCSD returns a trio of all-conference performers in first team honoree senior Arman Momdzhyan (44 goals, 10 assists), honorable mention selections Jack Turner (248 saves, 30 steals) and Cole Martinez (11 goals, seven assists), as well as the WWPA Freshman of the Year, Skyler Munatones (34 goals and 26 assists).

Loyola Marymount (13-16, 4-2), ranked No. 17 in the preseason CWPA poll, returns a trio of all-conference honorees, paced by junior center Dayne Jagga, who finished fourth in the league with 65 goals, and is joined by honorable mention selections junior Daniel Arellano, who led the league with 72 assists to go along with 20 goals, and Alex Athimatitis, who added all-freshman team honors after scoring 39 goals.

Cal Baptist, which enters the season ranked No. 16 in the nation according to the CWPA, lost its top three scorers from a season ago, as senior 2-meter man Jonny Lotero (29 goals, 16 assists) returns to lead the way, joined by second-team All-WWPA utility Tanner Shore, who finished tied for second in the league with 47 assists to go with 23 goals and a league-high 79 steals, and all-freshman 2-meter man Logan Mena (15 goals, three assists).

A youthful Air Force (11-16, 1-5) squad enters the season receiving votes in the first CWPA poll of the season and features a roster of 15 underclassmen among its 23 players. However, the Falcons return their top two scorers from a season ago in seniors Riley Thomas, who earned first-team All-WWPA honors after ranking third in the league with 69 goals and second with 104 points, and Jack Empey, who tallied 39 goals along with 18 assists. All-freshman team selection Luke Andres also returns to bolster the lineup, scoring 13 goals and 17 assists in his first year.

Santa Clara (11-16, 2-4), also among those receiving votes in the preseason CWPA poll, lost two of its top three scorers from the 2016 campaign, as sophomore all-freshman team selection Mac Carey paces the returners after scoring 48 goals and 32 assists. Sophomore goalkeeper Keaton Fox, another all-freshman honoree for the Broncos, also returns after making 140 saves during his debut campaign.

Fresno Pacific (9-20, 0-6) enters the 2017 campaign returning four of its top five scorers, but has some big shoes to fill with the loss of leading scorer David Maes, who earned second-team All-WWPA honors after leading the league in goals (77), goals per game (2.66), points (111), and points per game (3.83), while finishing second in steals (53) and steals per game (1.83). Junior 2-meter Kyle Eoff (35 goals, 20 assists) and senior driver Erik Brown (16 goals, 39 assists) lead the way for the returners.

Recently ascending to full-fledged NCAA Division II status after many years as a member of the NAIA, Concordia competed as a provisional member of the WWPA in 2016 and finished 5-16 overall, facing every member of the league except for UC Davis in the final third of the season.

2017 WWPA PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. UC Davis - 47 points (5 first-place votes)
2. UC San Diego - 45 (3)
t3. Loyola Marymount - 34
t3. Cal Baptist - 34
5. Air Force - 23
6. Santa Clara - 21
7. Concordia - 12
8. Fresno Pacific - 8

 
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