No. 18 Air Force Opens Season at Triton Invitational
Junior Garrett Womack

Sept. 1, 2011

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The 18th-ranked Air Force water polo team opens the 2011 season this weekend, Sept. 3-4, as it travels to La Jolla, Calif., for the annual Triton Invitational, hosted by conference rival UC San Diego.

The Falcons play two games on Saturday, facing Cal Lutheran and the 12th-ranked host Tritons. On Sunday, Air Force takes on a pair of WWPA foes, facing No. 8 Loyola Marymount, before wrapping up the weekend with a contest versus La Verne.

The Air Force Falcons, ranked 18th in this year's national preseason poll, are coming off a 13-18 season and fifth-place finish at the WWPA Championship. This year, the Falcons return three starters from the 2010 season, including two of the top three goal scorers in junior Cruz Smithson and sophomore Josh Stedman. Also returning is junior Mike Fish, the Falcons' starting goalkeeper in 2010. Fish will be ably backed up by senior captain Danny Harold.

HEAD COACH Jeff Heidmous...
Jeff Heidmous, the winningest coach in program history, returned to coach the Air Force water polo team in 2010 after spending the previous 11 years working as a senior administrator in the Air Force athletic department.

During his 18-year coaching tenure at the Academy, Heidmous has posted a 245-220-1 career ledger. All 18 of his teams have 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 10 players to 13 All-America citations.

The Cal Lutheran Kingsmen, ranked seventh in the 2011 preseason Division III poll, compiled a 13-13 overall record last season and finished fifth in the SCIAC standings with a 7-3 regular-season ledger.

Cal Lutheran is coached by Craig Rond, in his ninth year at the helm of the program. The Kingsmen are led by 2010 All-American Brandon Gross, who notched a team-best 61 goals last season, while fellow senior co-captain Jordan Meaney added 46 goals in 2010 to help pace the team.

The UC San Diego Tritons, ranked 12th in the 2011 preseason poll, compiled a 13-13 overall record last season and a fourth-place finish at the WWPA Championship.

UCSD is coached by Denny Harper, in his 32nd year at the helm of the program. The Tritons return four starters this season, including All-Americans Brian Donohoe and David Morton. Donohoe was the Tritons' leading goal scorer in 2010, while Morton registered 216 saves and a .617 save percentage.

The Loyola Marymount Lions, ranked eighth in the 2011 national preseason poll, posted a 20-9 overall record en route to their fourth-straight conference title.

LMU is coached by John Loughran, in his 15th year at the helm of the program. The Lions are led by two-time All-American Edgaras Asajavicius, who led LMU with 54 goals in 2010. Meanwhile, the Lions will have to replace seven seniors, including four-time All-Americans Tibor Forai and Andy Stevens and two-time All-American Andrew Aki.

The La Verne Leopards, ranked 10th in the 2010 preseason Division III poll, posted a 7-24 overall record last season.

La Verne is coached by Alex La, in his fifth year leading the program. Among the leaders for the Leopards is 2010 All-American Emerson Gant.

This weekend's meeting between Air Force and Cal Lutheran is the fifth all-time between the two teams, with the Falcons undefeated in the series. The Falcons won an 11-4 decision over the Kingsmen at the Convergence Tournament last season.

Saturday's game between Air Force and UC San Diego is the 67th in the series, with the Tritons holding a 52-14 advantage. UCSD won a pair of games against Air Force last season, including an 11-6 victory at the Triton Invitational.

Air Force and Loyola Marymount meet for the 44th time in series history this weekend, with the Lions holding a narrow 22-21 edge in the series. LMU has won 15 straight contests between the two teams, including a pair of victories in 2010.

Finally, Air Force is 17-1 all-time against La Verne, including a pair of wins over the Leopards in 2010.

For the fifth-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 2011 preseason poll. Four-time defending champion Loyola Marymount was chosen to repeat as the WWPA's top team with nine first-place votes.

UC Davis earned one first place vote and 107 points to earn second place in the voting, while UC San Diego had two first place votes and 102 points to place third. Santa Clara (92 points) and Air Force (79 points) rounded out the top five.

Redlands was selected to finish sixth in the WWPA, followed by Claremont and Pomona-Pitzer in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Rounding out the conference rankings were Whittier, Chapman, Occidental and La Verne.

Air Force returns to action Sept. 17-18, when it travels to Stockton, Calif., for the annual NorCal Tournament, featuring the top teams in the nation. Game times and opponents will be announced for the tournament following the release of the weekly coaches poll on Sept. 7.



Jennifer Hiddink
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