When the Long Beach State men’s water polo team went into last weekend, they knew they were going to have their hands full with big time opponents. The No. 5 ranked 49ers went 2-2 in the tournament, losing to No. 5 Pacific and No. 2 USC. The 49ers have performed better this season, but managed to come out with two wins.
“Our performance last weekend isn’t where we want to be. The good news is we found a way to win against Davis in a game we didn’t play very well in,” head coach Gavin Arroyo said. “I think great teams find ways to win when they’re having off-days.”
This week’s tournament will pose an even greater challenge, as 14 out of the Top 20 teams in the nation will be at the Mountain Pacific Invitational co-hosted by No. 2 USC and No. 20 Loyola Marymount.
At last year’s Mountain Pacific tournament, LBSU grabbed a 7-5 win over UC Davis to start, moving on to the next round and eventually falling 9-4 to USC. That put the 49ers in a clash against UC Santa Barbara, and the 49ers were able to pull off a 9-6 win. The last game of the tournament ended in a 8-6 loss to Stanford.
LBSU will take on No. 12 Princeton at 4:45 p.m. on Friday at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The 49ers have won six of seven matchups vs. the Tigers. The winner of the game will take on the victor of No. 3 Stanford and No. 19 Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday.
“This is going to be one of the hardest tournaments, all of the top ten teams are going to be playing in it,” Freshman goalie Marwan Darwish said. “It’s going to help us move up in the rankings if we do as expected or even better. We’re very excited to go into this weekend.”
It is indeed a big weekend for the 49ers, as this is the last tournament they will compete in before beginning Golden Coast Conference play. The tough non-conference schedule assembled by Arroyo and his coaching staff was designed to prepare the team to win conference and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament come December. The 49ers will need to make a statement this weekend, proving they can hang with the nation’s best and make a run at winning a Golden Coast Conference title.