Notebook: Long Beach State men’s water polo starts season in San Diego

Long Beach State men’s water polo opens the season this weekend and plays its first home game at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center on Sept. 30.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Dachman)
Long Beach State men’s water polo opens the season this weekend and plays its first home game at Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center on Sept. 30. (Photo courtesy Stephen Dachman)

The Long Beach State men’s water polo team has high hopes for the 2017 season with a large group of returners. The 49ers kick off the campaign this weekend at the Triton Invitational hosted by UC San Diego.

“I think we can contend,” 12th-year coach Gavin Arroyo said. “There is some experience out there and it’s time to cash in on that.”

LBSU lost five games by two goals or less last season. The final defeat came against Pacific, 12-11, in the second round of the Golden Coast Conference Tournament.

“These guys went through some disappointment, especially at the end of last year,” Arroyo said. “We have to learn how to close out games and that takes experience.”

Three of the 49ers’ key returners will rejoin the team just three days before the first game in San Diego on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Thomas Freeman, center Duncan Lynde and junior Austin Stevenson all competed in the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan this month. Lynde and Stevenson competed with team USA and Freeman played for his native Australia. Arroyo said that not having those players in practice this month might hurt LBSU early in the season, but that he’d never limit a players international experiences.

“I think some of my colleagues aren’t giving the national team the respect it deserves,” he said. “They’re putting their programs above those experiences. There’s absolutely nothing better than playing for your country. Any time we can get a player selected to a national team we’re going to send them. With the village and all of the sports, the University Games is the closest thing you can get to the Olympics in terms of experience. Not to mention the water polo.”

Freeman will be back in goal where he had 11 wins in 19 starts with 260 saves last season. Junior Austin Stewart is also back after a breakout sophomore season in which he scored 25 goals. That was second best to senior All-American Nolan McConnell’s 41 goals. Arroyo said it will be tough to fill the hole left by McConnell.

“He is one of the best players ever in the program,” Arroyo said. “But I like the way these next two classes have been built. They’ve gone though the program.”

LBSU is one of 11 top men’s water polo programs at the Triton Invitational this weekend. The 49ers are in pool B with UC Davis and the Air Force Academy. Pool play matches are on Saturday before the knockout and consolation games on Sunday.

Women’s Volleyball

LBSU hits the road this weekend to participate in the Wolverine Invitational in Orem, Utah a week after hosting a season-opening tournament. The 49ers open play Thursday against Montana before facing No. 9 Kansas on Friday afternoon. LBSU wraps up action Saturday morning against host Utah Valley.

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The LBSU defense will have its hands full against Kansas senior All-American setter Ainise Havili. She won the first Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after staring the season with three double-doubles at the Wolfpack Invitational where she was named MVP. Havili averaged 12.31 assists and 4.15 digs per set. The Jayhawks are the second top-10 team on a difficult LBSU schedule.

“You want to measure yourself against the best to see where you are, but at the same time you want to build some confidence with wins, too,” coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.

Women’s Soccer

Junior goalkeeper Imani McDonald won her first Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week award after the 49ers got back on track with two shutout wins last weekend.

McDonald helped the 49ers beat No. 16 Northwestern, 2-0, with an important save late in the game. The Long Beach Poly High alum had five saves three days later when LBSU won 2-0 at San Diego State.

LBSU (2-1-1) is No. 25 in the latest TopDrawerSoccer.com poll, and returns to George Allen Field on Friday to host Dartmouth for the first time in school history. Dartmouth (2-0) returns multiple All-Ivy League players including senior defenders Brittany Champagne and Lindsay Knutson. The Big Green held opponents to 15 goals last season.

The 49ers finish the week at No. 17 Cal on Sunday. LBSU is 0-4 in matches against Cal. The Golden Bears (3-1) beat the 49ers 2-0 in 2011 and have outscored LBSU 22-1 in the four meetings.

Cross Country

The men’s and women’s teams start the season on Friday at the Pepperdine Invitational in Malibu. Both teams have seven newcomers on the top of the rosters.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces and new energy to our program,” coach Shawn Winget said. The men are led by senior George Martinez, and the women are led by junior Mikayla Florez.

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About the Author

JJ Fiddler

JJ Fiddler is a sportswriter and videographer who has been covering the Long Beach-area sports world for multiple newspapers since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he adopted Long Beach as his home town and is a member of the Long Beach Century Club, where he is a two-time winner of the Keith Cordes Award for best promotion of the city through sports. Reach the author at jfiddler@scng.com or follow JJ on Twitter: @PTGazetteSports.