No. 20 Air Force Heads to NorCal Invitational
Senior captain Josh Stedman

Sept. 18, 2013

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The 20th-ranked Air Force water polo team returns to action this weekend, Sept. 21-22, at the annual NorCal Invitational hosted this year by Cal.

The Falcons open the weekend with a game versus the host Golden Bears at 10:50 a.m. (PT) on Saturday and will face either No. 8 Loyola Marymount or No. 9 Long Beach State in the second contest of the weekend. Sunday's opponents will be determined based on the outcome of Saturday's games.

The 2013 NorCal Invitational 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, seventh-ranked UC Irvine, 10th-ranked Pepperdine and Diablo Valley College, while Bracket B includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 UC Santa Barbara, No. 11 UC San Diego and No. 16 Concordia. Air Force will play in Bracket C, along with fourth-ranked host Cal, eighth-ranked Loyola Marymount and ninth-ranked Long Beach State, while No. 3 Pacific, No. 5 Stanford, No. 12 UC Davis and No. 15 Santa Clara complete Bracket D.

Air Force opened the season Sept. 7-8 at the Triton Invitational, hosted by WWPA rival UC San Diego. The Falcons were swept in the tournament, dropping close contests to No. 6 Long Beach State (10-8), No. 17 UC Davis (12-11/3OT) and Redlands (12-11/OT), while also falling to top-ranked USC (23-2).

Senior co-captain Josh Stedman was the Falcons' leading scorer on the weekend with four goals and six assists, while sophomore Andy Santala and junior Dominic Vicino each tallied a team-best five goals.

The Air Force Falcons, ranked 20th in the latest national coaches poll, seek their first win of the season this weekend, entering the NorCal Tournament with an 0-4 mark after one week of competition.

Senior Josh Stedman currently leads the Falcons with 10 points after four games, including a team-high six assists, while sophomore Andy Santala is second on the team with nine points (5g, 4a).

The Cal Golden Bears, ranked fourth in the nation, enter this weekend with a 4-0 record after going undefeated at the Triton Invitational Sept. 7-8, defeating Redlands, (21-3), UC San Diego (13-10), Loyola Marymount (17-7) and UC Davis (15-4). Leading Cal's offense this season is senior Collin Smith, who has registered a team-best eight goals, while junior Aleksa Saponjic has recorded five goals and a team-high nine assists through the first four games of the season.

The Loyola Marymount Lions, ranked eighth in this week's coaches poll, enter this weekend with a 2-3 overall record and are coming off a 10-9 home win over Pepperdine. Milutin Mitrovic leads the Lions' offense through the first five games of the season with 14 goals, including four in LMU's win over the Waves.

The Long Beach State 49ers, ranked ninth nationally, currently hold a 7-1 overall record on the season. The 49ers went 3-1 at last weekend's Inland Empire Classic, defeating Chapman (12-5), Whittier (13-3) and La Verne (19-1), while suffering their first defeat of the season with a 10-9 loss to Concordia. LBSU's offense is led by sophomores Nolan McConnell and Zacchary Kappos, who have each tallied 15 goals on the season.

This weekend's meeting between Air Force and Cal is the 25th all-time in the series, with the Golden Bears undefeated against the Falcons. The teams met twice last season, with Cal earning 19-2 and 21-4 victories.

Should Air Force and Loyola Marymount meet on Saturday, it would be the 48th overall meeting between the conference rivals, with the Lions holding a 25-22 edge in the series. The teams met twice in 2012, with LMU picking up a 9-8 home victory over Air Force, while the Falcons earned a 10-9 win in the semifinals of the WWPA Championship.

A meeting between Air Force and Long Beach State would be the 38th in the series, and the second this season, with the 49ers holding a 29-8 advantage over the Falcons. Air Force opened this season with a neutral-site game against Long Beach State, coming up short in a 10-8 decision.

After scoring 10 points in the opening weekend of competition, senior Josh Stedman currently ranks as the 16th-leading scorer in Air Force history with 199 points (140 goals, 59 assists) for his career. He needs just 11 more points to tie Rhett Binger (`91) for 15th place on the list.

The Falcons are back in action next weekend, Sept. 27-29, when they welcome four teams to the Academy for the Air Force Tournament. The Falcons will host WWPA opponent Cal Baptist, along with Chapman, Mercyhurst and Pomona-Pitzer.



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