The Long Beach State men’s water polo program made history at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center on Saturday night by beating Pomona-Pitzer 12-5 in the NCAA Tournament play-in game. It is the first NCAA postseason win for LBSU in 27 years.
“Just being part of this is amazing,” LBSU coach Gavin Arroyo said. “Seeing the NCAA banners at Long Beach State…we couldn’t ask for anything better.”
LBSU (14-11) advances to the next round at Stanford on Thursday against UC San Diego.
“It was a lot different than anything I’ve experienced here,” LBSU junior Austin Stewart said. “We were pretty pumped up.”
Stewart had two goals and two assists while freshman Garrett Zaan scored a game-high four goals. Senior Keegan Wicken delivered all three assists on the third-quarter goals, and sophomore goalkeeper Marwan Darwish finished with nine saves.
Pomona-Pitzer (24-9) took an early 2-0 lead, but LBSU responded with six unanswered goals for a 6-2 lead at halftime.
“They were ready to go and we got caught a little off guard,” Arroyo said. “It was good to go through it. It’s almost better that happens early so we could wake up.”
“We just tried to stay composed,” Stewart said. “We just tried to trust the system and spread them out. Even when they went up 2-0 I knew that we could just keep doing what we were doing and it would work for us.”
The Sagehens scored the first goal of the third quarter, and only trailed 8-5 towards the end of the quarter. However, Stewart found Zaan for an exclusion goal, and the Beach outscored Pomona-Pitzer 3-0 in the fourth quarter.
“In the beginning of the season it was kind of rough meshing with the guys,” Zaan said. “But we’re peaking at the perfect time.”
“Usually we don’t have freshman who get this much playing time,” Stewart said. “But the freshman have been a huge part of our team this season. We trust them.”
“Zahn was a blue chip recruit who played on the youth national team and we knew coming in that he was going to be pretty special,” Arroyo said. “He’d kind of our T.J. DeFalco. There’s going to be a transition coming out of high school but we knew it wouldn’t take him long.”
LBSU is on a seven-game winning streak. READ MORE about this unlikely postseason run.