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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Diving into the new season: UC Davis Men’s Water Polo

Aggies’ 2019 campaign starts strong

Coming off a tough 2018 season, the UC Davis men’s water polo team is starting its 2019 season off strong, as the Aggies picked up a number of quality wins in September. 

Last season, UC Davis ultimately fell short in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) title game to long-time rival and competitor UC San Diego. Despite that being the end of the 2018 season, the year consisted of many significant accomplishments, victories and a few tough losses that all ignited the start of the 2019 season. 

This year, the Aggies look to build off of an 18-8 overall record and an impressive 6-1 conference record from 2018. The team graduated six seniors last year, but it also welcomed six freshmen this Fall. Seniors Yurii Hanley, Holden Tamblyn and Max Somple now captain the 2019 squad and have all been significant forces in the pool offensively and defensively for the Aggies throughout their Davis careers. 

The 2019 team also consists of active upperclassmen players like juniors George Kuesis, Jack Stafford, Keenan Anderson and Jonah Addington in addition to senior Eric Martel who contribute in the team’s successes. 

“Every year we are really close, and that is no different this year,” Hanley explained about the team. “We are a tight-knit group who all love working hard and working for each other. We all have the same goal.”

The Aggies are firing into this upcoming season with full force in their September schedule, with wins against Loyola Marymount University, Chapman University and UC Berkeley. The Aggies have tallied 72 goals in their first five matches. 

The overtime thriller win against Cal at Berkeley’s home pool has set the tone so far for the 2019 season. Entering the game, UC Davis ranked #11 nationally, while the Golden Bears, ranked #5, have been a perennial powerhouse. 

“Our mindset was basically just keep on grinding,” Hanley said. “That we knew we could hang with them, that we knew if we got down a little bit not to freak out because we just knew we put the work in and we can hang with them — and we could win if we kept grinding.”

This UC match-up ended with back-to-back goals by Kuesis and Somple in the final 30 seconds of regulation, tying the match 12-12 and taking it to overtime. While the first overtime period ended in 13-13 after sophomore Nir Gross fired one to the back of the net, Kuesis, Tamblyn and Anderson sealed the deal in the second overtime period, each scoring and cementing the Aggie upset with a 16-13 score. 

“We were all excited,” Somple recalled. “We were confident, we look forward to playing those guys every year. We have, the past few years, had some close games with [UC Berkeley], so it was nice to get over the hump and get a win against them.”

 Hanley also explained that the team plans to build off this win by “maintaining the mindset that we are only as good as our last win, so you just gotta keep on building you can’t rest on your laurels.” 

The victory in Berkeley was certainly a highlight for the program and a large reason why the Aggies’ 2019 season is looking strong. The team’s captains highlight that communication is the team’s best asset. 

“Communication is key,” Somple explained. “We really take pride in the way we treat each other, so you know it’s the way you treat each other in the pool. [Such as] the passes you’re giving each other, just working for each other if you see someone is off their block and always covering for each other. Always having your teammates back.”

This season, the Aggies strive to get to their end goal of winning the WWPA. With a few big wins so far, the team has a strong mentality of always reaching toward that goal. But it doesn’t mean that the Aggies won’t be tested. Over this past weekend, UC Davis split a four-game tilt in the 2019 Aggie Roundup, beating Cal Baptist and Ottawa University but falling to the #1-ranked Stanford in a rematch with the Golden Bears.

 “It all comes down to that last game in November,” Somple said. “And that’s the one you want to win, and that’s our main focus, […] as well as just building connections with your teammates and really caring for each other.” 

The team believes it has big things in store for this season, filled with a lot of good play, hard work, resilience and teamwork. According to Somple, the men of UC Davis water polo are aiming toward their end goal by “just playing our game” and always playing “at a high level.” 

Written by: Frankie Veverka — sports@theaggie.org

1 COMMENT

  1. This article is written very well! I’m surprised you got to interview all those players! I’m looking forward to the water polo season and looking forward to hearing more from this great journalist.

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