No. 14 Air Force Travels to SoCal Tournament
Junior Andrew Hamilton

Sept. 26, 2012

Weekly Release #3 Get Acrobat Reader

The 14th-ranked Air Force water polo team returns to action this weekend, Sept. 29-30, at the SoCal Tournament, hosted by UC Santa Barbara.

The Falcons will face fourth-ranked Cal in their first game of the weekend, before taking on either fifth-ranked UC Irvine or 12th-ranked UC Davis on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Sunday's opponents will be determined based on the results of Saturday's contests.

The 2012 SoCal Tournament features 16 teams, all 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, No. 8 Pacific, No. 9 Long Beach State and No. 19 St. Francis, while Bracket B includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 10 Loyola Marymount and No. 17 Santa Clara. Bracket C will feature third-ranked Stanford, No. 6 host UC Santa Barbara, 11th-ranked UC San Diego and No. 16 Princeton, while Air Force will play in Bracket D along with fourth-ranked Cal, No. 5 UC Irvine and 12th-ranked UC Davis.

Air Force posted a 2-2 record at the NorCal Tournament Sept. 15-16 to place 13th. After falling to No. 3 Cal, 19-2, and No. 11 UC San Diego, 8-7 in double overtime, on the opening day, the Falcons rebounded with two wins on day two, knocking off No. 18 Concordia (10-8) and No. 14 Santa Clara (9-7).

Senior Brad Rajchel was the Falcons' leading scorer on the weekend with five goals and three assists, including five points in Air Force's win over Concordia. Max Reilly (3g, 3a) and Cruz Smithson (4g, 2a) each added six points for the Falcons, while senior goalkeeper Mike Fish tallied 63 saves in four games, including 20 versus UC San Diego.

The Air Force Falcons, ranked 14th in the latest national coaches poll, enter this weekend with a 5-3 overall record, including a 4-1 mark in the Western Water Polo Association.

Junior Josh Stedman currently leads the Falcons with 18 points on the season, including a team-high 16 goals, while senior Cruz Smithson has added 16 points (nine goals and a team-best seven assists). Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish has tallied 109 saves to start the season, including 20 in an overtime loss to UC San Diego.

The Cal Golden Bears, ranked fourth in the nation, enter this weekend with a 7-3 overall record after dropping their last three contests to UCLA (11-10 - OT), Stanford (9-8) and USC (7-6).

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 29 goals on the season, while senior Marin Balarin has added 19 goals.

The UC Irvine Anteaters, ranked fifth nationally, enter this weekend with a 10-1 overall record after finishing fifth at the NorCal Tournament Sept. 15-16.

UC Irvine is coached by Marc Hunt, in his eighth season leading the program. Junior All-American Mitch Wise and junior transfer Bojan Hrlec lead the Anteaters' offense with 32 goals each, while senior Nick Pfeil has added 21 scores.

The UC Davis Aggies, ranked 12th in this week's coaches poll, currently hold a 10-4 record on the season after winning five games at the Aggie Shootout last weekend.

UC Davis is coached by Steve Doten, in his 12th year at the helm of the program. Sophomore Chris Richardson is the leading scorer for the Aggies this season with 44 points, including a team-best 33 goals, while senior Matt Vowell (16g, 18a) and junior Bernie Rogers (17g, 16a) have added 34 and 33 points, respectively.

This weekend's meeting between Air Force and Cal is the 24th all-time in the series, with the Golden Bears undefeated against the Falcons. The teams last met at the NorCal Tournament on Sept. 15, with Cal capturing a 19-2 victory.

Should Air Force and UC Irvine meet on Saturday, it would be the 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 Davis would be the 66th in the series, with the Falcons holding a 36-29 advantage over the Aggies. The two teams met twice last season, with UC Davis taking wins in both contests.

Senior Mike Fish was the second Falcon to earn conference accolades this season, as he was named the KAP7 Western Water Polo Association Player of the Week on Sept. 19.

Fish registered 63 saves in four games to help lead Air Force to a 13th-place finish at the NorCal Invitational last weekend, the best showing in the last six seasons for the Falcons. Against Cal, Fish registered 14 saves in three plus quarters of action, while adding a season-high 20 saves in a double-overtime heartbreaker to UC San Diego. He added 17 and 12 saves, respectively, in the wins over Concordia and Santa Clara.

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 193 points (142 goals, 51 assists), currently ranks 19th all-time at the Academy in career points, and needs just one more point to move into a tie for 18th place.

The Falcons return to action next weekend, Oct. 7, with their first home contest of the year, as they host Santa Clara in a WWPA contest. The game is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. in the Cadet Natatorium.



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