After opening the season by sweeping a pair of Southern California tournaments, the No. 6 Long Beach State men’s water polo team is off to its best start since 2005.
The Beach (8-0) picked up a quality win over No. 9 UC San Diego at the Triton Tournament, and then beat 2018 NCAA Tournament foe No. 19 Pomona-Pitzer at the Inland Empire Classic last weekend. Coach Gavin Arroyo said the 11-7 win over UCSD showed him what kind of squad he has because they played a good team and had some tough calls go against them in the second quarter.
“There were things that could potentially derail your group mentally,” Arroyo said. “They were obviously frustrated but were able to get past that and continue to win the mental battle in the second half. Winning the game was a bonus but just being able to stay on task though that second half shows that there is some hope for this group.”
LBSU junior Rafael Real Vergara scored 15 goals in the four games last weekend, including six in the win over Pomona-Pitzer.
Arroyo is also trying to fold in some elite talent as sophomore attacker Evan Cain, freshman defender Zach Frazier and junior goalkeeper Liam Ward returned from the FINA Junior World Championships earlier this month.
The first big test of the season is Friday when LBSU is scheduled to host No. 1 UCLA at 7 p.m. at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center. Arroyo said that stopping the Bruins transition game is the key to staying in the game.
“As usual they’re pretty stacked and talented with a really deep bench,” Arroyo said. “They keep coming with the level not dropping so it’s a matter of giving up easy goals and trying to control the game and staying in it to push it in the fourth. That’s always the key is not letting it get away too early.”
LBSU is also still waiting for Egyptian national Abdelrahman Soliman and Cal transfer Alika Naone to get cleared for completion.
The Beach starts Golden Coast Conference play on Oct. 9.
LBSU (3-2-1) is also off to a great start after capping its season opening six-game road trip with a 1-1 draw at Washington last weekend. Junior forward Lena Silano scored the equalizer off a crossbar rebound in the 89th-minute to force overtime, and goalkeeper Morgan Houston-Shepherd made five saves to help salvage the point.
Silano now has four goals this season and her 10 points leads the Big West Conference in points per game.
The draw at Washington is the first against a PAC-12 opponent since 2015 when LBSU played USC to a scoreless tie on the road.
The Beach returns to George Allen Field this week with games against Montana on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Cal on Sunday at 4 p.m.
LBSU (4-5) picked up a win Washington State’s Cougar Challenge last weekend by beating Gonzaga in five sets. Junior outside hitter Kashauna Williams was named to the All-Tournament Team for the third straight weekend after leading LBSU with 4.73 kills per set on a .354 attack percentage. Sophomore libero Nicole Hoff anchored the defense with 4.55 digs per set.
The Beach will be back at Walter Pyramid on Saturday at 4 p.m. to play No. 25 San Diego.