The 49ers will look to make a statement and gain momentum heading into the final games of Golden Coast Conference play after losing their last nine games against teams ranked higher than them.
With the end of the regular season looming, the Long Beach State men’s water polo team is due to pull off an upset win. Saturday’s game against No. 4 Stanford will be the tenth game that LBSU has played against an opponent ranked in the top 5.
As of late, the defense has struggled to keep up with other teams’ offensive attacks. Last Friday’s win against No. 10 UC Santa Barbara proved to be a breakout game for the 49ers’ defense, as they held the Gauchos to six goals and never trailed in the win. On Sunday, LBSU (11-10) regressed to some of its old ways against No. 2 Cal, as the Bears offense was too powerful in the 14-8 win.
This weekend’s matchup against No. 4 Stanford will be another challenge for the defense. Stanford’s offense is led by freshman Ben Hallock who has netted 44 goals on the season. The Cardinal roster isn’t lacking talent either, with four players on Team USA water polo rosters including Blake Parrish, Tyler Abramson, Dylan Woodhead and goalkeeper Drew Holland.
“We’re looking to lock them down as best as we can,” LBSU junior defender Austin Stevenson said. “I mean [they’ve been] to the Olympics but I think there’s a good matchup here between myself and the other guys on the team.”
Long Beach’s offense will push to keep things going behind 38 goals from sophomore attacker Austin Stewart and 29 from sophomore attacker Nemanja Bakic. After Saturday’s game against Stanford, the 49ers will play an exhibition match against Long Beach City College at 3 p.m. The doubleheader Saturday will be the last home games of the year as the team heads into the Golden Coast Conference tournament Nov. 17-19.
“I think we’re starting to feel more prepared,” Stevenson said. “We’ve had our ups and downs with some games, but I think lately we’ve been working hard in practice and becoming better as a team so it’s looking good for the end of the year.”