The Pepperdine Waves men’s water polo squad, champs of the Golden Coast Conference, will hit the pool against UC Davis in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Water Polo Championships in Stockton on Dec. 5.
The Waves’ NCAA tournament appearance will come 11 days after the bunch captured the GCC crown by defeating Long Beach State, 14-12, in the conference tournament final on Nov. 24.
Waves sophomore attacker Balazs Kosa led Pepperdine with four goals, and senior center Chris Dilworth, sophomore attacker Sean Ferrariand senior two-meter defender Sean Thomas recorded two goals apiece. Center Coleman Carpenter, sophomore utility Jake Gordon, freshman utility Kaden Kaneko and senior center back Mate Toth also each tallied a score. On defense, sophomore goalkeeper John Claude Marco had 10 saves.
Pepperdine held a 9-6 lead at halftime. Long Beach scored three unanswered points in the third quarter before Thomas scored for the Waves. Long Beach tied the contest again, but Gordon scored—then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Kosa tossed in a goal. He scored again after Long Beach goaled. Kosa nabbed his final goal of the contest to secure the championship for the Waves after Long Beach added its last point to the scoreboard.
Thomas was named the tournament MVP, and Kosa and Dilworth were named to the all-tournament team.
Pepperdine advanced to the tournament’s title match after beating UC Santa Barbara, 10-9, in the first round a day earlier.
The Waves are entering the NCAA tournament with a 24-7 record and a seven-game winning streak. The bunch has only lost two of their last 16 games. Those two losses were to Stanford and Pacific, the top two teams in the NCAA Championships.
Five Pepperdine players received GCC honors before the conference tournament. Dilworth and Kosa were named to the All-GCC first team. Marco, Toth and senior utility/attacker Marko Asic were honorable mentions. Austin Smit was tapped for the All-Freshman team.
The Waves last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 1997. The water polo team is the second Pepperdine sports squad to qualify for an NCAA championship event this fall. Earlier this month, the university’s women’s soccer team made an appearance in the NCAA’s women’s soccer tournament.
Other teams in the seven-team NCAA Water Polo Championships are Bucknell, Harvard and Southern California.
The tournament kicks off with Harvard facing Bucknell in the first round on Saturday. Pepperdine, ranked fifth in national polls, will play UC Davis at Pacific’s Chris Kjeldsen Aquatic Center. If the Waves are victorious, they will play Pacific on Dec. 7, also in Stockton.
Pepperdine was defeated by UC Davis, 7-5, in September 2017, the last time the squads played each other.