No. 12 Air Force Opens Season at Triton Invitational
Senior Andrew Hamilton

Sep 5, 2013

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The 12th-ranked Air Force water polo team opens the 2013 season this weekend, Sept. 7-8, at the Triton Invitational, hosted by conference foe UC San Diego.

The Falcons take on three nationally ranked teams on the weekend, opening with games against No. 6 Long Beach State and 17th-ranked WWPA opponent UC Davis on Saturday, while facing Redlands and top-ranked USC on Sunday.

The Air Force Falcons, ranked 12th in this season's preseason coaches poll, are coming off a 19-12 season and their first WWPA title since 1994. The Falcons lose four starters from last season's squad, including goalkeeper Mike Fish, as well as All-American Cruz Smithson. However, Air Force returns three of its top five scorers from 2012, led by senior co-captain Josh Stedman.

Stedman, a two-time first-team All-WWPA selection and honorable mention All-American in 2012, led the Falcons in both goals (64) and total points (87) last season, while also pacing the team in steals (43). Fellow captain Max Reilly was Air Force's fourth-leading point scorer in 2012, ranking second on the team with 30 assists. Meanwhile, senior Andrew Hamilton was fourth on the team in goals scored last season with 40.

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 20-year coaching tenure at the Academy, Heidmous has posted a 275-249-1 career ledger. All 20 of his teams, including his last three squads, have finished the season nationally ranked in the top 20, including 16 top-15 rankings and five top-10 finishes. He has led the Falcons to three WWPA titles, including last season, when Air Force captured its first WWPA Championship since 1994. The Falcons 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 Long Beach State 49ers, ranked sixth in the preseason coaches poll, finished the 2012 season with a 24-8 overall record. This year, the 49ers return eight of their top ten goal-scorers from last season, including All-Americans Dan Matulis and Nick Rascon. LBSU is coached by Gavin Arroyo, in his eighth year at the helm of the program.

The UC Davis Aggies, ranked 17th in this year's preseason poll, compiled a 14-18 overall record in 2012. Among the top returners for UC Davis are juniors Chris Richardson and Trevor Allen, the team's top two scorers a year ago. At the helm of the Aggies' program is first-year head coach Daniel Leyson.

The Redlands Bulldogs begin the 2013 season this weekend after compiling an 8-21 overall record in 2012. Redlands returns a pair of NCAA Division III All-Americans in senior Clint Freeman and junior Michael Robinson. Meanwhile, Tom Whittemore returns for his 26th season as the head coach for the Bulldogs.

The USC Trojans enter the 2013 season as the top-ranked team in the nation after capturing a record fifth-straight national title last season. The Trojans, who have won 31-consecutive games, including a perfect 29-0 record in 2012, are coached by 12-time national coach of the year Jovan Vavic. Meanwhile, five All-Americans return to the pool for USC, including goalkeeper James Clark and national player of the year Nikola Vavic.

This weekend's meeting between Air Force and Long Beach State is the 37th all-time in the series, with the 49ers holding a 28-8 advantage. The two teams met in a pair of neutral site contests in 2012, with Long Beach State winning both games.

Saturday's game between Air Force and UC Davis will be the 68th all-time between the WWPA rivals, with the Falcons holding a 38-29 advantage in the series. Air Force won both of its contests against the Aggies last season, earning a 12-11 victory at the SoCal Tournament, while picking up a 15-11 home win.

Air Force and former conference foe Redlands meet for the 37th time in series history this weekend, with the Falcons holding a 26-9 edge in the series. Air Force won the lone meeting between the two teams last season, capturing an 13-8 victory in the season opener.

Meanwhile, Air Force and USC will hold their 17th all-time meeting this weekend, with the Trojans undefeated against the Falcons. The two teams met in the semi-finals of the NCAA Championship last season, with USC earning an 18-7 victory en route to its fifth-straight national title.

Defending conference champion Air Force was selected to finish tied for second in the Western Water Polo Association, as chosen by the conference's head coaches in the 2013 preseason poll. The Falcons, who received two first-place votes, shared the second spot in the poll with 2011 champion UC San Diego (one first-place vote).

Earning the top spot in this year's poll by a narrow margin was Loyola Marymount, which received three first-place votes. UC Davis was picked to finish fourth in the newly configured WWPA, followed by Santa Clara and league newcomer Cal Baptist in fifth and sixth place, respectively.

Senior Josh Stedman currently ranks as the 20th-leading scorer in Air Force history with 189 points (136 goals, 53 assists) for his career. He needs just five more points to tie Chad Simendinger (`01) for 19th place on the list.

Air Force has the next weekend off before heading to Berkeley, Calif., Sept. 21-22, for the annual NorCal Tournament, featuring many of the top teams in the nation.



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