No. 16 Air Force Heads to NorCal Tournament
Senior captain Brad Rajchel

Sept. 12, 2012

Weekly Release #2 Get Acrobat Reader

The 16th-ranked Air Force water polo team returns to action this weekend, Sept. 15-16, at the NorCal Tournament, hosted by Stanford.

The Falcons will face third-ranked Cal in their first game of the weekend, before taking on either sixth-ranked UC Irvine or 11th-ranked UC San Diego on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Sunday's opponents will be determined based on the results of Saturday's contests.

The 2012 NorCal Tournament features 16 teams, 15 of which are ranked in the latest national poll, including the top 12 teams in the country.

The teams in this weekend's tournament are broken down into four brackets. Bracket A includes top-ranked USC, eighth-ranked Pepperdine, ninth-ranked Long Beach State and Pomona-Pitzer, while Bracket B includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 7 Pacific, No. 10 Loyola Marymount and No. 18 Concordia. Air Force will play in Bracket C, along with third-ranked Cal, sixth-ranked UC Irvine and 13th-ranked UC San Diego, while fourth-ranked host Stanford, fifth-ranked UC Santa Barbara, 12th-ranked UC Davis and 14th-ranked Santa Clara complete Bracket D.

Air Force opened the season last weekend at the Inland Empire Classic, co-hosted by Redlands, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and La Verne. The Falcons posted a 3-1 record on the weekend, defeating Redlands (13-8), Chapman (15-8) and Claremont (8-7), before dropping a 15-10 decision to No. 9 Long Beach State.

Junior Josh Stedman was the Falcons' leading scorer on the weekend with 12 goals and an assist, including six goals in Air Force's win over Chapman. Meanwhile, Andrew Hamilton (7g, 3a) and Cruz Smithson (5g, 5a) each added 10 points for the Falcons.

The Air Force Falcons, ranked 16th in the latest national coaches poll, enter this weekend with a 3-1 overall record, including a 3-0 mark in the Western Water Polo Association.

Junior Josh Stedman currently leads the Falcons with 13 points after four games, including a team-high 12 goals, while senior Cruz Smithson (5g, 5a) and junior Andrew Hamilton (7g, 3a) have each added 10 points. Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish has tallied 46 saves to start the season, including 16 in a win over Chapman.

The Cal Golden Bears, ranked third in the nation, enter this weekend with a 5-0 record after going undefeated at last weekend's Princeton Invitational, defeating St. Francis (16-3), Princeton (16-4), Harvard (13-7), Bucknell (20-3) and MIT (17-4).

Cal is coached by Kirk Everist, in his 11th year at the helm of the program. The Bears are led offensively by junior Collin Smith, who has tallied a team-high 19 goals and eight assists on the season, while senior Marin Balarin has added 14 goals and seven assists.

The UC Irvine Anteaters, ranked sixth nationally, currently hold a 7-0 record on the season, including wins over Occidental (18-3), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (15-4), La Verne (21-5) and Pomona-Pitzer (19-10) at the Inland Empire Classic last weekend.

UC Irvine is coached by Marc Hunt, in his eighth season leading the program. Junior All-American Mitch Wise is the leading scorer on the season for the Anteaters with 24 goals, while junior transfer Bojan Hrlec has added 22 scores.

The UC San Diego Tritons, ranked 11th in this week's coaches poll, enter this weekend with an 0-1 record after dropping an 18-10 decision to fifth-ranked UC Santa Barbara to open the season.

UC San Diego is coached by Denny Harper, in his 33rd year at the helm of the program. Junior Josh Stiling was the leading scorer for the Tritons in their first game of the year, tallying four goals against the Gauchos.

This weekend's meeting between Air Force and Cal is the 23rd all-time in the series, with the Golden Bears undefeated against the Falcons. The teams last met in 2007, with Cal winning a pair of games versus Air Force.

Should Air Force and UC Irvine meet on Saturday, it would be 18th overall meeting between the two teams, with the Anteaters holding a 16-1 edge in the series. The last meeting between the two teams was in 2010, when UC Irvine captured a 12-3 victory over the Falcons.

A meeting between Air Force and UC San Diego would be the 70th in the series, with the Tritons holding a 55-14 advantage over the Falcons. The two teams met three times last season, with UCSD winning all three contests.

Junior Josh Stedman was the first Falcon to earn conference accolades this season, as he was named the KAP7 Western Water Polo Association Co-Player of the Week on Sept. 12.

Stedman helped lead the 16th-ranked Falcons to a 3-1 record and a 3-0 WWPA mark in their opening weekend of competition. At the Inland Empire Classic, Stedman was the Falcons' leading goal scorer on the weekend with 12 goals, including a team-best six scores in Air Force's 15-8 victory over Chapman. Stedman also tallied an assist and a team-leading five steals in Air Force's first four games of the year.

With his 10 points in the opening weekend of competition, senior Cruz Smithson moved onto the Falcons' list of top-20 all-time scorers. Smithson, who now has 187 points (138 goals, 49 assists), currently ranks 19th all-time at the Academy in career points, and needs just seven more points to move into a tie for 18th place.

Air Force is off next weekend, but returns to action Sept. 29-30 at the SoCal Tournament, hosted this year by UC Santa Barbara.



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