Falcons Water Polo Season Review
The Air Force Academy water polo team finished its season ranked 18 with a 14-13 overall record, placing third in the Western Water Polo Association Championships, and with four of its seniors qualifying for the WWPA all-conference teams. C1Cs Chad Simendinger and Charlie Toth were both named first-team all-conference. Simendinger led the team in goals with a total of 44 for the season, while also managing to collect 16 assists and 62 steals. In the goal, Toth had an impressive 173 saves for the season and helped lead the Falcons in steals along with co-captain Wade Grabow with 64 for the season, placing Toth first in career-total steals at the Academy. Reimer was named second-team all-conference and finished the season with 38 goals and 22 steals for the season. Argel was named honorable-mention all-conference, finishing with 35 goals and 44 steals for the season. The season began on a very positive note with a 3-1 record at the Triton Tournament hosted by UC San Diego, defeating Pamona-Pitzer, La Verne, and Loyola Marymount and falling to UC San Diego.
Unfortunately, the following weekend saw the Falcons falling to Navy in a pre-tournament match up only to suffer additional losses to Univ. of the Pacific, Stanford and Pepperdine in the Southern California Tournament. Air Force came back in its final match of the tournament to defeat Navy, 11-7. The Falcons had a bit of time off to prepare for their next competitions in Pamona and Claremont where they ended up splitting the weekend with wins over Pamona-Pitzer and Redlands, falling to Claremont and La Verne. Air Force had some time off once again to prepare for their home tournament, the Air Force Invitational, where Air Force hosted the Cal Baptist Lancers and UC Davis Aggies. The Falcons dominated the tournament winning all four of their matches. The Falcon's water polo team split their following weekend with two losses and two wins at the Northern California Water Polo Tournament, which was hosted by the University of the Pacific. Air Force lost in its first match to UC San Diego, 12-9, and in its second match against Cal Baptist, 6-5. The Falcons were able to close out the weekend with back-to-back wins against UC Santa Cruz, 10-7, and UC Davis, 12-5.
Air Force water polo closed its final weekend of regular-season play falling to Loyola Marymount, 12-6, Santa Clara, 9-6, and Cal Baptist, 11-5, in competition at Loyola Marymount.
The Falcons water polo team placed third in the Western Water Polo Association Championships in Honolulu, Hawaii, hosted by Chaminade University. Air Force went 2-1, defeating UC Davis, 10-6, and falling to UC San Diego, 6-4. The Falcons finished the tournament with a 10-5 win against La Verne Univ. for third place.
Overall the Falcons had a successful campaign this season, finishing with a winning record, a strong placing at the WWPA Championships and gaining national recognition by finishing within the top 20.
"Our goal was to do well at the WWPA Championships and to finish within the top 20 and we've accomplished that, although we would ultimately like see ourselves finishing within the top ten," said head coach Jeff Ehrlich. Next season, the Falcons will be forced to compete without the talent that has been such a strong team presence within recent years.
"It's going to be difficult next season losing five seniors who have played a considerable amount of minutes over the past three years," said Ehrlich. "Next season's top-ten players will be coming from this year's freshman class."
Ehrlich is very pleased with the way his team managed to perform throughout the season, and with finishing so prominently at the WWPA Championships. "I'm happy with what we were able to accomplish this season and I'm very pleased with the way we were able to finish strong towards the end," said Ehrlich.
Next year will bring with it many challenges for a new and much younger Air Force team, but much of the Falcons' success has always been their ability to overcome the challenges of a new season. With the younger class stepping up and the year ahead to prepare, the next season promises to be a successful one.