The field is set for the National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championships after a weekend of tournament action that featured six upsets and five overtime affairs.
In the end, four of the six top seeds won their respective tournament crowns with #2 seed Pepperdine out of the Golden Coast Conference and #2 seed Stanford out of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as the exceptions.
Of the six conference winners, five earned automatic berths to the NCAA Championships. The sixth, Whittier, winner of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) earned the right to host the USA Water Polo Division III National Championship.
In addition, two at-large teams were selected to join the NCAA field: USC out of the MPSF and Pacific out of the GCC.
Harvard and Bucknell will get the action started in the play-in game on Nov 30 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The winner of that contest moves on to face USC in the first quarterfinal on Dec. 5 in Stockton, California.
UC Davis takes on Pepperdine in the other quarterfinal on Dec. 5.
On Dec. 7, the winner of the USC vs. Harvard/Bucknell match moves on to face Stanford, while the victor of the UC Davis/Pepperdine contest will take on host Pacific.
The 2019 NCAA title match will be played on Dec. 8.
NCAA Automatic Berths
- Golden Coast Conference: Pepperdine – The #5 Waves defeated #8 Long Beach State 14-12 in the GCC Championship match. Pepperdine was among the Top 8 all season, peaking at #5 (Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 20). The Waves won their lone national championship in 1997, besting USC in double overtime. That also marked Pepperdine’s most recent NCAA appearance. They are only team outside of the MPSF to win the title since 1989.
- Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference: Bucknell – The #13 Bison followed a regular season title with the MAWPC tournament championship, cruising past George Washington 9-4. Bucknell was ranked throughout the season, spending two weeks at #13 (Sept. 18, Nov. 20). The Bison will be making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2016, when they lost their opening round match to Harvard in triple overtime.
- Mountain Pacific Sports Federation: Stanford – The #1 Cardinal topped #7 Cal 17-11 for their seventh MPSF crown. Stanford, the 2018 runnerup was ranked atop the CWPA poll in eight of the 12 polls, including five weeks from Oct. 2 to Oct. 30. Stanford has won 10 NCAA titles (1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002) and been the runnerup 11 times.
- Northeast Water Polo Conference: Harvard – The #9 Crimson edged #19 Princeton 8-7 to take its third NWPC crown in the last four years. Harvard ran the table on its competition, going 27-0 in the regular season, including 10-0 in NWPC play. The Crimson cracked the Top 10 on Oct. 9 (10) and spent the last six weeks of the year camped at #9. Harvard made it first NCAA appearance in 2016 and advanced to the semifinals, and made the NCAA quarterfinals in 2017.
- Western Water Polo Association: #10 UC Davis claimed its third WWPA title in the last four years, besting #11 UC San Diego 14-5. The Aggies were ranked as high as #7 on Sept. 18, but spent the final two weeks at #10. UC Davis was in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2017 and in the play-in game in 2016.
- USC – The defending NCAA champions. The Trojans went 14-5 and won the MPSF regular season title and #1 seed with a perfect 3-0 mark. They were ranked among the CWPA Top 10 all season, including four weeks at #1 (preseason, Sept. 11, Nov. 13 and Nov. 20). This will mark the Trojans’ 15th consecutive NCAA appearance, including six straight NCAA titles (2008-2013). All together, USC has won nine NCAA crowns (also 1998, 2003, 2005).
- Pacific – The Tigers (16-5, 5-0 GCC) were the GCC regular season champions and #1 seed in the league tournament. Pacific has been among the CWPA Top 6 all year, including six weeks (Oct. 2-Nov. 6) at #3. The Tigers, which were ranked at #4 in the last two polls, fell to Long Beach State (13-12) and UC Santa Barbara (15-10) at the GCC Championships, finishing in third place. Pacific was the NCAA runnerup in 2013 and a semifinalist in 2017.