Falcons earn first NCAA bid since 1994
The Falcons face St. Francis Brooklyn in the third-place game of the National Collegiate Men's Water Polo Championship.
The Falcons earn a 19-12 victory over the Sunbirds on the final day of the Air Force Tournament.
The Falcons earn a 15-11 conference victory over the Aggies.
Jeff Heidmous, the winningest coach in program history, is in his fifth year back at the helm of the Air Force water polo team. Heidmous returned to lead the Falcons' water polo program in 2010 after spending the previous 11 years working as an administrator in the Air Force athletic department.
In his first four seasons back with the Falcons, Air Force has compiled a 49-61 overall record. The Falcons finished fifth in the Western Water Polo Association and earned a final ranking of 20th in the nation in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Meanwhile, Air Force had a breakout season in 2012, capturing their first WWPA Championship since 1994 and earning a trip to the NCAA Championship. The Falcons, who registered a 19-12 overall mark, posted their best-ever NCAA finish, taking fourth place at the national tournament, as Heidmous was tabbed the WWPA Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
The Falcons had a pair of players--Cruz Smithson and Josh Stedman--who earned honorable mention All-America accolades in 2012, with Smithson leaving the Academy as the fifth-leading goal scorer in Academy history. Meanwhile, Stedman earned his second honorable mention All-America nod in 2013, surpassing Smithson's career goal mark and becoming just the third multiple All-America selection in program history. Stedman was selected to the US Senior National Team and will train full-time for the next two years as part of the Air Force's World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) in his quest to make the 2016 Olympic Team.
Heidmous, a 1977 USAFA graduate, began his Air Force coaching career in 1981, before heading to UC Santa Barbara in 1985 to pursue his graduate degree. While at UCSB, he helped coach the Gaucho water polo team, assisting them to a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Tournament, while earning his master's degree in exercise physiology. He then returned to the Academy in 1986, where he coached until his military retirement in 1999. During his first 17-year tenure, Heidmous posted a 232-202-1 overall ledger.
All 21 of his teams, including his last four squads, have finished the season nationally ranked in the top 20, including 16 top-15 rankings and five top-10 finishes. Before his arrival in 1981, no Air Force water polo team had ever been nationally ranked. In addition, between 1988 and 1996, Heidmous led the Falcons to nine straight appearances in the Western Water Polo Association championship game (then a conference record), winning a pair of WWPA titles (1990 and 1994). His 1994 team compiled a perfect 12-0 record in conference action.
Heidmous has also led five teams to the NCAA Championship tournament and coached 12 players to 16 All-America citations. During his tenure, 34 players have earned a total of 62 All-WWPA selections, while four players earned league MVP accolades. In 2013, Stedman earned the third first-team all-conference nod of his career, while fellow senior Andrew Hamilton was named to the All-WWPA second team and Riley Quinlan was honored as a member of the WWPA All-Freshman team.
Heidmous' players have also been recognized for their academic achievement, with a total of 47 academic all-conference honors (25 players) and eight honorees on the ACWPC All-Academic Team (16 awards), including 2011 team captain Danny Harold.
Four of Heidmous' players captured Academy Major Awards. David Chaney and Brian Pendergast were both recipients of the Athletic Excellence Award, the Academy's second-highest athletic achievement award. Ted Baudendistel earned the Athletic Leadership Award, presented annually by the Commandant of Cadets to the cadet-athlete displaying the highest traits of character and leadership, while Don Sheesley was presented with the Scholar-Athlete Award, recognizing the Academy's top graduating scholar-athlete.
Heidmous also served as the head coach for the 1987 and 1988 U.S. Junior National Development water polo teams, winning two Can-Am-Mex tournaments, and led the South team at the 1990 and 1995 U.S. Olympic Sports Festivals, earning a silver medal in 1995. In 1987 he was honored as one of the original cadre of Elite-Level coaches certified by USA Water Polo and was later selected to the national team coaching pool from 1990-1994.
During his first stint with the Falcons, Heidmous arguably developed the top collegiate program outside of California. In his last nine seasons (1990-1998), Air Force shocked the NCAA water polo world with 18 victories over more advantaged Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) programs (23 total wins since 1981), more MPSF victories than all the other non-California teams combined, and five top-10 national rankings. For his coaching achievements, involvement in USA Water Polo, and contributions to the growth of water polo outside of California (especially at the collegiate level) he was inducted as a coach into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, Heidmous was selected to the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships and Rules Committees and subsequently voted in as the Chair of the Championships Committee for 2010.
Heidmous is one of three brothers to play water polo for the Falcons. All three brothers were four-year starters and earned team captain and team MVP honors as seniors. He and his older brother, Walt (Class of 1976), were members of Air Force's first NCAA tournament team in 1974, while his younger brother, Phil (Class of 1980), was a member of Air Force's 1978 and 1979 NCAA Tournament teams.
Heidmous and his wife, Barb, have three children: Jodi (31), Bryan (29) and Briget (25).