No. 14 Air Force Heads to WWPA Championship

    Senior Alex Churnside
    Senior Alex Churnside

    Nov. 18, 2009

    This weekend, the 14th-ranked Air Force water polo team will seek its first conference title since 1994, as it heads to Orange, Calif., for the Western Water Polo Association Championship, Nov. 20-22. The Falcons, seeded second in this weekend's tournament, will face seventh-seed Whittier in the first game of the championship, slated for 10:00 a.m. (PT) on Friday.

    For complete information on this weekend's tournament, visit WWPA Tournament Home. .

    The Seeds...
    Following is the seeding for this weekend's conference championship, with national ranking in parentheses:
    1. Loyola Marymount (8)
    2. Air Force (14)
    3. UC San Diego (10)
    4. Santa Clara (13)
    5. UC Davis (15)
    6. Redlands (T20)
    7. Whittier
    8. Chapman

    The Schedule...
    Friday, Nov. 20

    Game 1 - 10:00 am - #2 Air Force vs. #7 Whittier
    Game 2 - 11:45 am - #3 UC San Diego vs. #6 Redlands
    Game 3 - 1:30 pm - #1 Loyola Marymount vs. #8 Chapman
    Game 4 - 3:15 pm - #4 Santa Clara vs. #5 UC Davis

    Saturday, Nov. 21
    Game 5 - 10:00 am - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
    Game 6 - 11:45 am - Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
    Game 7 - 1:30 pm - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
    Game 8 - 3:15 pm - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2

    Sunday, Nov. 22
    Game 9 - 9:00 am - Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 (Seventh Place)
    Game 10 - 10:45 am - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 (Fifth Place)
    Game 11 - 12:30 pm - Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 (Third Place)
    Game 12 - 2:30 pm - Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 (Championship)

    Last Year at the WWPA's...
    Top-seeded Loyola Marymount capped off a perfect season against WWPA competition with a win over UC San Diego at the 2008 WWPA Championship, hosted by Claremont.

    Meanwhile, Air Force stayed true to its seed, finishing sixth in the tournament. After a close loss to third-seed UC Davis in the opening round, the Falcons rebounded with wins over Chapman and Claremont. However, Air Force ended its season with a 12-10 overtime loss to Redlands in the fifth-place game.

     

     

    Last Time Out...
    Air Force closed out its regular season Nov. 6-7 with a 3-1 record against WWPA opponents, defeating Chapman, La Verne and Claremont, while falling to then-sixth-ranked Loyola Marymount.

    Junior Bobby Geiger was the Falcons' leading goal scorer on the weekend with nine goals, while senior Jack Hines added six goals and five assists over the four games.

    Scouting the Falcons...
    The second-seeded Air Force Falcons, ranked 14th in the latest national poll, wrapped up the regular season with a 17-12 overall record and 10-4 mark in the Western Water Polo Association.

    Junior Bobby Geiger is the Falcons' leading scorer with 84 total points on the season, including a team-high 66 goals, while senior Alex Churnside ranks second on the team in total points (74) with a team-best 46 assists on the year. In addition, senior Jack Hines and freshman Cruz Smithson are tied for second on the team in goals (39) and third in points (56).

    Scouting the Lions...
    The eighth-ranked Loyola Marymount Lions, seeded first in this year's WWPA Championship, finished the regular season with a 16-7 overall record and 11-0 mark in the WWPA.

    LMU is coached by John Loughran, in his 13th season at the helm of the Lions' program. Junior goalkeeper Andy Stevens, who has recorded 252 saves on the season, was named the WWPA Player of the Year for the second-straight season. Meanwhile, Edgaras Asajavicius is LMU's leading scorer with 40 goals on the year.

    Scouting the Tritons...
    The third-seeded UC San Diego Tritons, ranked 10th in the nation, closed out the regular season with a 12-13 overall record and 8-5 ledger in the WWPA.

    UCSD is coached by Denny Harper, in his 30th season at the helm of the program. Freshman Steven Donohoe is the leading scorer for the Tritons with 57 goals on the season, while sophomore goalkeeper David Morton ranks third in the nation with 267 saves on the year.

    Scouting the Broncos...
    The Santa Clara Broncos, ranked 13th in the nation and seeded fourth in this year's championship, currently hold a 20-11 overall record and 10-4 mark in the WWPA.

    Santa Clara is coached by Keith Wilbur, in his eighth season at the helm of the program. Junior Nick Poggetti has tallied a team-best 56 goals on the season, followed by senior Jack Wall with 55 goals.

    Scouting the Aggies...
    The 15th-ranked UC Davis Aggies, seeded fourth in this weekend's tournament, finished the regular season with a 13-15 overall record and 8-7 ledger against WWPA competition.

    UC Davis is coached by Steve Doten, in his ninth season at the helm of the program. Cory Lyle and Jim Breen are tied for the team lead in goals scored with 24 each. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Kevin Peat has registered 208 saves on the season.

    Scouting the Bulldogs...
    The sixth-seeded Redlands Bulldogs, tied for 20th in the nation in the latest coaches poll, wrapped up their regular season with a 17-16 overall record and 12-5 mark against WWPA competition. Redlands is coming off a title run at the 2009 SCIAC Championship.

    The Bulldogs are coached by Tom Whittemore, now in his 22nd season leading the program. Senior Erik Grosshans is the team's leading scorer, with 56 goals on the year, while Ryan Floersch, a first-team all-conference pick, finished the regular season with 48 goals and 35 assists.

    Scouting the Poets...
    The Whittier Poets, the seventh-seed in this year's championship, enter this weekend with an 18-12 overall record and 11-7 mark against WWPA opponents.

    Whittier is coached by Justin Pudwill, in his third season at the helm of the program. Senior Alex Perry leads the team with 68 goals on the season, while senior goalkeeper Casey Regehr leads the nation with 414 saves on the year.

    Scouting the Panthers...
    The eighth-seeded Chapman Panthers, host of this year's championship, enter this weekend with a 12-14 overall record and 5-6 mark in the WWPA.

    The Panthers are coached by Eric Ploessel, in his third year at the helm of the program. Senior Alex Mule leads the team and the nation in scoring with 96 goals on the season.

    WWPA Awards...
    Two of the three major Western Water Polo Association year-end awards went to Falcons, as Air Force head coach Jeff Ehrlich was named WWPA Coach of the Year, while freshman Cruz Smithson was honored as the conference Newcomer of the Year.

    Ehrlich, in his 11th season at the helm of the Falcons' program, helped lead Air Force to a 17-12 overall record, including a 10-4 mark in the WWPA. With his guidance, the Falcons pulled off a few big wins, including a victory over 10th-ranked UC San Diego in the opening weekend of the season, as well as the Falcons' first win over Pacific since 1995.

    Meanwhile, Smithson had an impressive rookie campaign for the Falcons, finishing the season with 39 goals and 17 assists. His 39 goals were tied for second-most on the team, while his 56-point output was tied for third-highest on the squad.

    All-Conference Accolades...
    A total of four Air Force players earned all-conference recognition this season, led by senior Alex Churnside, a first-team All-WWPA honoree. Senior Jack Hines earned second-team all-conference honors for the second-straight season, while senior goalkeeper David Ostrom earned honorable mention recognition. In addition, Cruz Smithson, the league's Newcomer of the Year, was named to the WWPA All-Freshman team.

    In the Record Books...
    Senior Alex Churnside currently sits among the Academy's top five career scorers, ranking fifth with 264 career points (136g, 128a). Churnside is 16 points away from fourth-place on the Falcons' all-time scoring list. Meanwhile, Churnside also moved into third place in the Falcons' record book for career assists with 128 and is just two assists away from tying for second place.

    Junior Bobby Geiger now ranks 17th on the Falcons' all-time scoring list with 186 career points (136g, 50a), while senior Jack Hines moved into the Academy's top-25 scoring list and is currently 24th in the Falcons' record books with 169 career points (113g, 56a).

    Senior goalkeeper David Ostrom has made his mark on the Academy record books as well, currently ranking third all-time in career saves with 648.

    Up Next...
    The winner of this weekend's WWPA Championship will earn an automatic bid to the four-team NCAA Championship, which is being held Dec. 5-6 in Princeton, N.J.

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