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Men's Water Polo - Fri, Sep. 1, 2017

​LOS ANGELES - Labor Day Weekend brings the start of the 2017 men's collegiate water polo season and with it year two of men's water polo in the Golden Coast Conference.

University of the Pacific is the preseason favorite to win the GCC Championship this season, edging out Long Beach State by just one point in the annual Preseason Coaches' Poll as voted on by the league's six head coaches.

Pacific earned 22 points and three first place votes while the 49ers earned 21 points and a pair of first place votes. Right behind them is UC Irvine, who has been picked third with 18 points and the remaining first place vote. Last season's champions, regular season title holder UC Santa Barbara and tournament champion Pepperdine finished tied for fourth with 12 points each. San Jose State was selected six with five points.

2017 PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. Pacific - 22 Points (3 first place votes)
2. Long Beach State - 21 (2)
3. UC Irvine - 18 (1)
4. UC Santa Barbara - 12
    Pepperdine -12
5. San Jose State - 5

OPENING WEEKEND
All six teams are in action this Labor Day weekend with 23 games on the slate. UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Long Beach State are at the 2017 Triton Invitational hosted by UC San Diego in La Jolla.

On Saturday, Long Beach state opens with Air Force while UC Irvine faces Fresno Pacific. The Gauchos open with Concordia. Action continues with games in the afternoon on Saturday and then final bracket play with two games for each team on Sunday.

Pacific and Pepperdine both make the long trip to Rhode Island for the Bruno Classic hosted by Brown University. The Tigers will face Bucknell and Wagner on Saturday while Pepperdine faces MIT and Harvard. On Sunday, the Tigers open with host Brown and end with St. Francis. Pepperdine faces Bucknell and finishes with host Brown.

Also on Saturday, San Jose State will stay local as they face West Valley College in an exhibition at 2:30 pm before taking on Santa Clara in the official season opener at 4 pm.

IN THE POLLS
In the 2017 Men's Varsity Top-20 preseason poll spots five through eight are occupied by the GCC. Pacific is ranked fifth with 79 points, followed closely in sixth by UC Santa Barbara with 73 points. Pepperdine and Long Beach State are seventh and eighth with 70 and 69 points, respectively.

UC Irvine is ranked 13th in the poll with 39 points and San Jose State rounds out the poll in receiving votes with four points.

2017 PLAYERS TO WATCH

LONG BEACH STATE
The 49ers will look to center Duncan Lynde and goalie Tom Freeman in 2017. Lynde's size and strength are major assets for the 49ers in the center position and is the key to the offense. "We are looking for him to provide leadership in and out of the water," said Head Coach Gavin Arroyo.

In goal, Arroyo states that Freeman has "improved tremendously after his freshman year. As a starter last year, he has gained the confidence and poise to lead our defense." Both players competed at the world university games this August, Freeman for Australia and Lynde for Team USA.

PACIFIC
The Tigers return 73 percent of the team's goal scoring from last season. Kale Ai, Devon Thumwood and Tim Reeves are back for their senior campaigns with Thumwood coming off a season in which he scored 28 goals and set-up another 27 in route to All-America honors. Reeves scored 35 goals in a breakout junior campaign. Redshirt senior Kale Ai scored 16 goals with 22 assists last year and was named team captain.

Also returning are last season's impact freshmen, as All-American Engin Ege Colak (GCC Newcomer of the Year in 2016), Luis Araya, Luke Pavillard and Andrea De Nardi combined for 119 goals last season. Colak led the team with 49, while Araya tallied 33. Pavillard scored 25 goals before a season-ending injury while De Nardi chipping in 12 goals with 15 assists.

PEPPERDINE
The Waves got hot at the right time last season as they took at the top seeds in three consecutive games to win the GCC Tournament Championship. Zack Rhodes led the team to the title and was named tournament MVP while earning ACWPC All-American honorable mention in 2016. He returns for his senior season after totaling 495 saves and a 8.97 goals against average a year ago.

Mark Urban also returns for the Waves. He was an ACWPC All-American honorable mention in 2016. He was also named to the GCC All-Tournament team, as well as being named to the All-GCC first team and GCC All-Tournament Team. He lead the team in assists, with 33 and was second on the team in goals, with 40.

SAN JOSE STATE
San Jose State's Ben Hauschild led the conference last season in steals as a freshman, and will be a year older for the young Spartans this coming fall. "Ben will be an important part of the continued development and growth of our new and young team in the coming seasons, and we look forward to him getting better and better," said Head Coach Bruce Watson.

Also returning for the Spartans is Finn Pardon, who was one of two freshmen playing at center. "His play got better as the season went on, and we think that improvement will continue this coming season. He is developing into a complete player, able to play other positions, and hopefully will have an excellent sophomore season."

UC IRVINE
The Anteaters return three key seniors in 2017 in Milos Louvre, Kyle Trush and Matej Matijevic. Louvre redshirted in 2016 after earning All-America Honorable Mention honors in 2015 in leading UCI with 60 goals. He had a career-high 92 goals in 2014, the second highest total for a MPSF player.

Southern California native Trush anchors the UC Irvine defense and played for Team USA at the World University Games. He also redshirted in 2016 after earning All-America Honorable Mention selection in 2015. He was second on the team that season with 46 goals.

Speaking of defense, the return the top goalie from a year ago. The senior Matijevic was a first-team All-Golden Coast Conference last season after recording 312 saves.

UC SANTA BARBARA
The Gauchos went unbeaten in the regular season during GCC play a year ago in claiming the first GCC title. Leading the way was Reed Cotterill, who earned Second Team All-American honors after recording a team-high 44 goals to go along with 11 assists in 2016. The Sydney, Australia native was also active on the defensive end, finishing with 24 steals.

Also returning after an All-American season a year ago is Shane Hauschild. He earned his second Honorable Mention honor after scoring 32 goals, good for third on the team, and finishing with team-highs of 20 assists and 110 total shots. On the defensive end, he had the fourth-most steals on the team with 16.

"Shane is a tremendous asset to the team on both sides of the ball," said Head Coach Wolf Wigo. 

Follow the GCC all season on Twitter and Instagram @GCCWP or online at GCCWaterPolo.com. #GCCWATERPOLO