Sept. 1, 2010
The 19th-ranked Air Force water polo team begins the 2010 season this weekend as it travels to La Jolla, Calif., to compete in the annual Triton Invitational, hosted by conference rival UC San Diego, Sept. 4-5.
The Falcons open the weekend against the 11th-ranked host Tritons, followed by a WWPA showdown versus La Verne. On Sunday, Air Force meets sixth-ranked conference rival Loyola Marymount, while capping off the weekend against 10th-ranked Pacific.
Scouting the Falcons...
The Air Force Falcons, ranked 19th in the national preseason poll, are coming off an 18-14 season and sixth-place finish at the WWPA Championship. Air Force returns two of its top three scorers from the 2009 season, including senior captain Bobby Geiger.
Geiger, who led the Falcons with 77 goals and 100 total points last season, returns to anchor the Air Force offense, along with sophomore Cruz Smithson, who earned WWPA Newcomer of the Year honors in 2009 after recording 44 goals (62 points) on the season.
The Falcons feature a new coaching staff this season, as Jeff Heidmous, the winningest coach in program history, returns to the helm after spending the past 11 years as a senior administrator in the Air Force athletic department, while three-time All-American Brian Pendergast returns to the Academy as an assistant coach.
Head Coach Jeff Heidmous...
Jeff Heidmous, the winningest coach in program history, returns to coach the Air Force water polo team this season. Heidmous takes back the reins of the Falcons' water polo program after spending the last 11 years working as a senior administrator in the Air Force athletic department.
During his 17-year tenure at the Academy, Heidmous posted a 232-202-1 career ledger. All 17 of his teams finished the season nationally ranked in the top 20, including 15 top-15 rankings and five top-10 finishes. 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 also led four teams to the NCAA Championship tournament and coached nine players to 12 All-America citations.
Scouting the Tritons...
The UC San Diego Tritons, ranked 11th in the 2010 preseason poll, compiled a 14-14 overall record last season, advancing to the WWPA championship game.
UCSD is coached by Denny Harper, in his 31st year at the helm of the program. The Tritons are led by returning All-American goalkeeper David Morton, who recorded 296 saves in 2009, the second highest single-season total in school history. Meanwhile, Bryce Madsen leads UCSD's returners with 37 goals scored and 20 assists in 2009.
Scouting the Leopards...
The La Verne Leopards, ranked ninth in the 2010 preseason Division III poll, posted a 5-22 overall record last season and finished seventh at the SCIAC Tournament.
La Verne is coached by Alex La, in his fourth year leading the program. Among the Leopards' top returners are sophomore Arturo Villalpando, who led the team with 46 goals in 2009, and senior goalkeeper Alan Navarez, who averaged 6.37 saves per game.
Scouting the Lions...
The Loyola Marymount Lions, ranked sixth in the 2010 preseason poll, posted a 19-9 overall record and a perfect 14-0 mark in the WWPA en route to their third-straight conference title.
LMU is coached by John Loughran, in his 14th year at the helm of the program. The Lions are led by four All-Americans, including three-time honorees Tibor Forai and Andy Stevens. Edgaras Asajavicius, an honorable mention All-American in 2009, scored a team-best 45 goals last season, followed by Forai (40) and fellow All-American Andrew Aki (39). Meanwhile, Stevens, the WWPA Player of the Year, posted 321 saves on the season.
Scouting the Tigers...
The Pacific Tigers, ranked 10th in the 2010 preseason poll, compiled a 13-18 overall record in 2009, finishing eighth in the MPSF Tournament.
Pacific is coached by John Graham, in his third year at the helm of the program. The Tigers are led by junior Tom Konig, who registered a team-best 50 goals in 2009, and sophomore All-American Goran Tomasevic, who registered 37 goals and 14 assists.
This weekend's meeting between Air Force and UC San Diego is the 65th in the series, with the Tritons holding a 50-14 advantage. The two teams met at last year's Triton Invitational, with the Falcons posting a 14-12 upset over 10th-ranked UCSD.
Air Force is 15-1 all-time against La Verne, including a 17-7 road victory over the Leopards in 2009.
Air Force and Loyola Marymount meet for the 42nd time in series history this weekend, with the Falcons holding a narrow 21-20 edge in the series. However, LMU has won 13 straight contests between the team, including a pair of victories in 2009.
Finally, Air Force will take on Pacific for the 35th time in the series, as the Tigers lead, 27-7. Last season, the Falcons picked up a 9-8 victory over the 11th-ranked Tigers, marking Air Force's first win over Pacific since 1995.
Air Force Picked Fifth in Preseason WWPA Poll...
For the fourth-straight season, the Falcons were selected to finish fifth in the Western Water Polo Association, as chosen by the conference's head coaches in the 2010 preseason poll. Three-time defending champion Loyola Marymount was chosen to repeat as the WWPA's top team with a maximum 121 points.
Santa Clara finished second in the voting, with 104 points, edging out UC San Diego (102). UC Davis was selected as the fourth-place pick, while Air Force rounded out the top five.
Redlands was selected to finish sixth in the WWPA, followed by Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Rounding out the conference rankings were Whittier, Occidental, Chapman and La Verne.
In the Record Books...
Senior captain Bobby Geiger currently sits among the Academy's top 20 career scorers, ranking 14th with 202 career points (147g, 55a). Geiger needs just eight more points to move into a tie for 13th place and 21 points to break into the top 10. Meanwhile, he is just 19 goals away from moving into the top five in the Falcons' record book for career goals.
Air Force returns to action next weekend, Sept. 11-12, for its first and only home games of the season. The Falcons will host conference opponent Chapman in a single game each day. Both contests are slated to begin at 10:00 a.m.