No. 13 Air Force Heads to WWPA Championship as Third Seed

    Senior Cruz Smithson

    Senior Cruz Smithson

    Nov. 14, 2012

    Weekly Release #9 Get Acrobat Reader

    The 13th-ranked Air Force water polo team heads to Whittier, Calif., this week, Nov. 16-18, for the 2012 Western Water Polo Association Championship. The Falcons, seeded third in this year's tournament, will face sixth-seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in their first game, slated to begin at 2:15 p.m. (PT) on Friday.

    THE SEEDS...
    Following is the seeding for this week's conference championship, with national rankings in parentheses:
    1. UC San Diego (10)
    2. Loyola Marymount (11)
    3. Air Force (13)
    4. UC Davis (16)
    5. Santa Clara (19)
    6. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (RV)
    7. Pomona-Pitzer
    8. Whittier

    THE SCHEDULE...
    Friday, Nov. 16
    Game 1 - No. 1 UC San Diego vs. No. 8 Whittier - 9:00 am
    Game 2 - No. 4 UC Davis vs. No. 5 Santa Clara - 10:45 am
    Game 3 - No. 2 LMU vs. No. 7 Pomona-Pitzer - 12:30 pm
    Game 4 - No. 3 Air Force vs. No. 6 Claremont - 2:15 pm

    Saturday, Nov. 17
    Game 5 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 9:00 am
    Game 6 - Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 - 10:45 am
    Game 7 - Winner Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 12:30 pm
    Game 8 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 - 2:15 pm

    Sunday, Nov. 18
    Seventh Place - Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 - 9:00 am
    Fifth Place - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 - 10:45 am
    Third Place - Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 - 12:30 pm
    Championship - Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 - 2:15 pm

    LAST YEAR AT THE WWPA'S...
    Host UC San Diego, seeded second, edged out fourth-seed UC Davis, 8-7, to claim the 2011 WWPA Championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

    Meanwhile, Air Force held true to its seed, finishing fifth with an 8-4 victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on the final day of competition. Air Force rolled to a 17-1 victory over Occidental in its opening round game, before falling to UC Davis, 6-3, in the quarterfinals. The Falcons then closed out the tournament with wins over Redlands (11-8) and Claremont.

    LAST TIME OUT...
    Air Force put together a 2-1 record over its last weekend of regular-season competition, posting 13-9 victories over conference foes Pomona-Pitzer and Whittier, while dropping a narrow 9-8 decision to 11th-ranked Loyola Marymount in WWPA action.

    Junior Josh Stedman was the leading point scorer for the Falcons for the weekend, registering nine points, including a team-best seven goals, while seniors Cruz Smithson (4g, 4a) and Garrett Womack (1g, 7a) added eight points each.

    SCOUTING THE FALCONS...
    The third-seeded Air Force Falcons, ranked 13th in the latest national coaches poll, concluded the regular season with a 16-10 overall record, including a 9-4 mark in the Western Water Polo Association.

    Junior Josh Stedman is the team's leading scorer with 74 points on the season, including a team-high 56 goals, while seniors Brad Rajchel (31g, 21a) and Cruz Smithson (34g, 16a) have added 52 and 50 points, respectively. Meanwhile, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish has tallied a league-leading 320 saves on the year.

    SCOUTING THE TRITONS...
    The top-seeded UC San Diego Tritons, ranked 10th in the latest coaches poll, closed out the regular season with a 14-7 overall record and 12-2 mark in the WWPA.

    UC San Diego is coached by Denny Harper, in his 33rd year leading the program. WWPA Player of the Year Josh Stiling leads the Tritons with a team-best 66 goals. Joining Stiling on the WWPA first team were senior driver Brian Donohoe and sophomore goalkeeper Cameron Ravanbach, while John Butler and Luke Syka earned second-team and honorable mention accolades, respectively.

    SCOUTING THE LIONS...
    The second-seeded Loyola Marymount Lions, ranked 11th in the latest coaches poll, currently hold a 15-9 overall record and 10-2 mark in the WWPA.

    Loyola Marymount is coached by John Loughran, in his 16th year leading the program. The Lions had four players earn All-WWPA honors, led by league Newcomer of the Year Milutin Mitrovic, who has registered a team-best 62 goals and 21 assists on the season. John Mikuzis and goalie Kyle Testman were each named first-team All-WWPA honorees along with Mitrovic, while senior Collin Walters was named an honorable mention All-WWPA selection.

    SCOUTING THE AGGIES...
    The UC Davis Aggies, ranked 16th in the latest coaches poll and seeded fourth in this year's tournament, wrapped up the regular season with a 13-16 overall mark and 11-5 record in WWPA action.

    UC Davis is coached by Steve Doten, in his 12th year leading the program. The Aggies are led by first-team All-WWPA honoree Matt Vowell, while sophomore Chris Richardson was named to the WWPA second team with a team-leading 57 goals.

    SCOUTING THE BRONCOS...
    The Santa Clara Broncos, seeded fifth in the tournament, are ranked 19th in the latest coaches poll. The Broncos closed out the regular season with a 9-18 overall record and 6-9 mark in the WWPA.

    Santa Clara is coached by Keith Wilbur, in his 11th year leading the program. Junior Jimmy Moore, who registered 31 goals and 20 assists on the year, led the Broncos' WWPA selections as a second-team honoree, while Tucker Carlson was named an honorable mention selection with a team-best 45 goals.

    SCOUTING THE STAGS...
    The sixth-seeded Claremont-Scripps-Mudd Stags, receiving votes in the latest coaches poll, ended the regular season with a 13-16 overall record and 8-6 mark against WWPA foes. The Stags recently captured the 2012 SCIAC Championship.

    Claremont is coached by Greg Lonzo, in his sixth year at the helm of the program. The Stags are led by second-team All-WWPA selection Brian Baier, who has registered 40 goals and 28 assists, and All-Freshman honoree Tanner Cullen, who has totaled a team-best 63 goals and added 35 assists on the year.

    SCOUTING THE SAGEHENS...
    The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, seeded seventh in this week's championship, concluded the regular season with a 14-15 overall record and an 8-6 mark against WWPA opponents. The Sagehens are coming off a runner-up finish at the SCIAC Championship.

    Pomona-Pitzer is coached by Alex Rodriguez, in his seventh year at the helm of the program. The Sagehens are led by second-team All-WWPA honoree Jason Cox, who has scored a team-best 46 goals on the season, while senior Ryan Higgins has added 38 goals.

    SCOUTING THE POETS...
    The Whittier Poets, this year's host and eighth seed, closed out the regular season with an 11-17 overall record and 6-10 mark against WWPA opponents.

    Whittier is coached by Justin Pudwill, in his sixth year at the helm of the program. Second-team All-WWPA honoree Goran Mataic has scored a conference-best 73 goals on the season to lead the Poets.

    ALL-CONFERENCE ACCOLADES...
    Four Air Force players earned recognition from the WWPA this season, led by junior Josh Stedman, who earned the second first-team All-WWPA selection of his career. Seniors Mike Fish and Cruz Smithson were both named second-team all-conference selections, while rookie Ben Rogers was named to the WWPA All-Freshman team.

    RECORD BOOK WATCH...
    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 227 points (167 goals, 60 assists), currently ranks 11th all-time at the Academy in career points, and needs five more points to move into a tie for 10th place. Smithson is also two goals away from breaking into the top-five list for career goals.

    RECORD BOOK WATCH, PT. 2...
    Senior goalkeeper Mike Fish became the latest Falcon to move into the Academy's record books. With 320 saves this season, Fish now has 631 saves for his career, ranking fourth in program history.

    RECORD BOOK WATCH, PT. 3...
    Junior Josh Stedman is on the verge of entering the Academy's list of top-20 career scorers. Stedman, who enters this weekend with 176 career points, needs just five more points to move into a tie for 20th on the Falcons' all-time scoring list.

    UP NEXT...
    The winner of this week's tournament will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, which is being held Dec. 1-2 in Los Angeles, Calif.

     

     

    Inside Men's Water Polo