11 weeks of hard-fought wins and unlucky losses led the UC Davis men’s water polo team to the highly anticipated WWPA championship tournament two weeks ago. The Aggies added 26 goals in the tournament, giving them over 325 for the season and achieved a glorious, end-of-the-season victory against No. 19, California Baptist. Despite a hard-hit loss in the semi-finals, UC Davis water polo returned home from WWPA with the triumphant third-place title. Completing the season at 16-17, water polo is UC Davis’s Men’s Team of the Quarter.
This season, the water polo team defeated over seven different top-20 teams, and had 2 overtime victories, including a well-earned 7-6 win against No. 15, Santa Clara University. Other victories included those against Pomona-Pitzer, Air Force, Navy, Chapman, Whittier, Concordia, Loyola Marymount and Fresno Pacific universities, prior to the onset of the WWPA championship tournament.
Despite losing six of their first seven games of the season, UC Davis demonstrated remarkable perseverance, and came back strong in late September’s Aggie Shootout. UC Davis accomplished their biggest win of the season during this event, overwhelming unranked team, Cal Lutheran, 17-5. UC Davis went on to finish the shootout, taking four of five games, falling only to 2nd ranked Stanford, at the time.
Junior attacker Sean Grab was at the forefront this season, contributing a team high of 64 goals and 43 assists. Grab had a hat trick in the season’s final match against California Baptist, and received second team All-WWPA accolades in November. Grab sat down with the Aggie to explain the secret behind long-term success. “It’s all about working hard, working smart, and staying together. The result didn’t really indicate how well we played all season because we did have some close games. But as a whole, I’m very proud of the way we performed.”
Other honorable mentions this season include senior utility Chris Richardson, and freshman attacker Cory Laidig. Both Aggies headlined All-WWPA honorees, and had 58 and 26 goals, respectively.
This season marks the fifth time in a row that UC Davis water polo finished within the top four in WWPA standings.The Aggies achieved 2nd place titles in each of the 2013, 2011 and 2010 seasons, a remarkably consistent feat by WWPA standards.
UC Davis head coach Daniel Leyson acknowledged No. 6 ranked UC San Diego for taking the crown this season. “They have a really good team and they have demonstrated all year long that they’re the favorite.”
As for next year, the Aggies will attempt to take out the respectable UCSD. “I expect to win WWPA,” affirmed Grab.
Given the current performance, it will serve as no shock if the Aggies do just that.