The No. 8 ranked Long Beach State men’s water polo team cannot get itself out of a rough stretch of games. Losing eight out of its last nine, the team hasn’t been able to find a groove 16 games into the season.
Long Beach (7-9, 0-1 GCC) is coming off a long weekend with a road matchup against No. 2 Stanford followed by the MPSF Invitational hosted by Stanford. The 49ers came in eighth place out of 16 in the tournament after an upset win over No. 9 UC Davis and three losses to No. 1 USC, No. 5 UCSB and No. 7 Pacific.
Redshirt junior attacker Austin Stewart scored seven goals in the win over UC Davis, tying the record for second most goals scored in a game in LBSU history. Besides that, the 49ers haven’t been able to muster any sort of momentum lately. Long Beach can’t get over the hump and figure out ways to beat other ranked opponents.
The team’s best stretch of games came at the Inland Empire Classic, where they went on a three-game winning streak, taking down Division III including Whittier College, University of La Verne and Chapman University.
Since the team has consistently played other teams ranked within the Top 10, you’d think they would be able to have more than one upset win. Many of the team’s losses to top teams such as UCSB and Cal have been close, but not close enough for the 49ers.
Stewart needs to continue scoring goals and leading the attack. Senior defenders Austin Stevenson and Keegan Wicken have anchored the defense, but it takes a total team effort to contain powerhouse schools such as USC and Stanford. Simply put, Long Beach doesn’t have enough firepower to compete at the top right now.
Many of the 49er’s struggles have stemmed from the mix of veterans and young players. Head coach Gavin Arroyo mentioned earlier this season that there has been an adjustment period.
“We’re a little bit behind in the sense that our newer, younger guys kind of got a late start,” Arroyo said. “It’s been about fast tracking a lot of young talent into our chemistry with the other guys.”
If Long Beach can figure itself out, it will still be in good shape for Golden Coast Conference play. Following the 10-8 loss to No. 6 Pepperdine in the conference opener, the team has plenty more opportunities to prove they belong at the top of the GCC and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Next up for the 49ers is a home matchup 1 p.m. Saturday against No.1 USC followed by the annual alumni game at 3:30 p.m.