Although the Aggies have finished the regular season with three more losses than wins, they have exhibited strong play in Western Water Polo Association play, earning an 8-4 record and the third seed for this weekend’s conference tournament.
The Aggies travel to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for a tough Friday game against sixth-seed Air Force. The two squads met earlier this season, with UC Davis coming out on top at Schaal Aquatic Center, 12-10.
“I’ve always said that I have high hopes for this team,” head coach Steve Doten said. “I didn’t feel that it was a rebuilding year. So I can’t help but think of us as the dark horse. LMU comes in undefeated, UC San Diego is super talented. Santa Clara and Redlands are tough.
“But people aren’t thinking about what we can do. I really think we are capable, and hopefully our guys will realize it, play like it and put together a streak of games against competition that is really good.”
Defending champion Loyola Marymount grabbed the first seed with a season of flawless conference play.
UC San Diego picked up the two-seed, and will likely get matched up with the Aggies in Saturday’s second-round semifinal game.
UC Davis centers around a core of seniors. Utility Adam Bennett leads the team with 54 goals, while 2008 first-team All-WWPA honoree Grant Muenter owns the school record with 40 assists.
The defense is by Adam Lindsay and Danny Driscoll, while Paul Wilson leads the team in two-meter goals and exclusions with 25 and 35, respectively.
The Aggies have gotten a big lift from the impeccable play of redshirt freshman keeper Kevin Peat, who recorded 14 saves in Sunday’s showdown with Santa Clara.
“The seniors and the younger guys have two different styles. Adam Bennett, Adam Lindsay, Paul Wilson, Danny Driscoll – they’re big and strong.” Doten said, “That’s different than Walter Eggert, Cory Lyle, Aaron Salit and Matt Richardson, who are really fast. That second group gives us a lot of tempo and speed.”
With the young speed, new hot shot in cage and experienced, talented seniors, the Aggies are looking to return to the WWPA title game. UC Davis lost in the title match last year to LMU, 7-6.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at email@example.com.