After the Olympic Games and a very intense water polo tournament there, all players and staff are back home and have joined their teams for the national water polo leagues. US players, who don’t play international leagues, came back to their colleges to play the college water polo season 2016/2017.
The Stanford Cardinal Quartet
The Stanford Cardinal Quartet, led by Tony Azevedo, team USA water polo captain, followed by Alex Bowen ’15, Bret Bonanni ’16 and Ben Hallock ’20 had a significant role in US water polo team during the Olympic competition. Bonnani, who ended his college career this year, led team USA in scoring, during his first Olympics, with eight goals overall. Azevedo, Pac-12 Men’s Water Polo Player of the Century, after his fifth Olympic said goodbye to the national cap. Bowen scored four goals total in Rio, three of those against Spain. Hallock, one of the two high schoolers who got a chance to be a part of Dejan Udovicic team’s rejuvenation, played all five matches in Rio.
USC Trojan delivered nine players total to the Rio Olympics US squad, five for the women and four for the men’s national teams, for three different countries, USA, Australia and Greece. We will be able to see three out of those four play this season for USC Trojan water polo team. Vavic’s squad did a pretty good job in their national teams, McQuin Baron was one of the two USA goalies who made roster for the Olympic team, Thomas Dunstan is another high school player who made Team USA, while Joel Dennerley saved the net for the Australian team, and Kostas Genidounias had a significant role as a part of team Greece during the 2016 Olympic games.
Cal Bears, Berkeley gave two players for team USA, John Mann and current junior Luca Cupido while UCLA joins with two national players, Alex Roelse and Bruin alumnus Josh Samuels who earned a starting spot in the US national water polo team.
The back-to-back champion, UCLA, with the perfect record last season (30-0) will have a difficult task to keep it and stay on the top this season. 2015/16 runner-up, USC Trojans signed 6 new players. Dasic, Dunstan, Hornecker, Maier, Rubschlager and Wyatt who are set to join the Trojan Family as freshmen in 2016, as USC looks to extend its run of trips to the NCAA Tournament and bring home another national championship.
The other colleges have stepped up with a few names worth mentioning. Long Beach State got Nemanja Bakic, Serbian national youth player, who played last year for Red Star Belgrade in the multi-nation regional league, and has some big games under his belt, playing the best European teams, like Jug Dubrovnik, the reigning European Champion.
Changes in college water polo season 2016/2017
Some changes will apply starting this season’s competition. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Committee approved a proposal to remove a player from the remainder of a game for misconduct if he or she receives a second penalty for a minor act of misconduct in the same game. Additionally, the panel approved a new rule to punish any player who is removed from a match for misconduct three times in a season with a one-game suspension. The suspension would also apply to any subsequent times a player is excluded from a game.
There are also some changes in conferences. The Golden Coast Conference announced that it would be forming a men’s division to compete in Division I water polo. As charter members of the newly formed men’s division are Long Beach State, Pepperdine, San Jose State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific, all of whom competed within the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) last season.
Interesting games to watch in currently available schedule are:
9/12: UCLA vs Cal
10/22: UCLA vs Cal
10/29: Stanford vs UCLA
11/12: USC vs UCLA
11/12: Stanford vs Cal