LIVERMORE - The 2021 CCCAA Men's Water Polo State Championship at Las Positas College in Livermore this Friday and Saturday features a mix of regular participants and a relative newcomer. While Saddleback (SC) is making its first finals appearance since 1998, Diablo Valley (DVC) and Golden West (GWC) were in the last state tournament in 2019 (there was no tournament in 2020) and West Valley (WVC) returns for the first time since 2018.
There should be no shortage of offensive fireworks in Livermore. All four squads placed in the top six in the CCCAA in goals-per-game, with WVC topping the state with 18.47 GPG, Saddleback second with 16.44, Golden West third at 15.7, and DVC sixth at 15.10.
The state's top goalkeepers in save percentage, DVC's Luca Caniglia (59.7%) and WVC's Kai Seed (56.2) highlight four solid defenses. Golden West's Garrett Henderson led the CCCAA in wins with 20, with Saddleback's Nathan James not far behind with 17.
Here's a look at this weekend's teams:
North #1 seed West Valley College Vikings
The Vikings at a glance
Head Coach: Willo Rodriguez (sixth year)
2021 Record: 16-3, 6-0 Coast Conference
2021 Postseason: NorCal champions, Coast champions
State championships: eight (1983*, 1984*, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010)
(* No state championship was played in 1983-1984. A NorCal and SoCal champion were crowned.)
Last finals appearance: 2018 (finished third)
Goals for/against: 351-126
Finals opponents results: defeated DVC three times: 17-4 (9/11), 20-10 (10/2), 14-6 (NorCal final)
WVC returns to the finals after capturing its fourth NorCal title in five years and 31st-straight Coast Conference crown. The deep Vikings (23 players) played the fewest games of any of the four teams here but were undefeated against CCCAA competition and feature four players with at least 30 goals. Freshman Gojko Kapovic led the team with 37 goals, 38 assists and 41 steals. Keep an eye on Lucas Romanguera, who scored 33 goals in only 15 games. Goalkeeper Seed was a perfect 10-0 against CCCAA opponents with 132 saves in 56 quarters.
North #2 seed Diablo Valley College Vikings
The Vikings at a glance:
Head Coach: Matt DeTrane
2021 Record: 17-3, 4-0 Big 8 Conference
2021 Postseason: NorCal runner-up, Big 8 champions
State championships: none
Last finals appearance: 2019 (finished fourth)
Goals for/against: 302-150
Finals opponents results: fell to WVC three times: 17-4 (9/11), 20-10 (10/2), 14-6 (NorCal final)
DVC, a traditional northern California powerhouse, comes to Las Positas still in search of its first championship. The Vikings secured their second-straight undefeated Big 8 championship with an offense paced by the trio Spencer Lowell (31 goals), Donovan Chan (27) and Ryan Henderson (24). Nathan Ironside handed out a team-high 17 assists, while Lowell leads the team with 15 steals. The DVC defense boasts Caniglia, who topped the CCCAA with a 59.7 save % and only 52 goals-against in ten games.
South #1 seed Golden West College Rustlers
The Rustlers at a glance:
Head Coach: Scott Taylor (20th season)
2021 Record: 26-2, 5-0 Orange Empire Conference
2021 Postseason: SoCal champions, Orange Empire champions
State championships: 29 (1976-1982, 1984*, 1985, 1989-1996, 2001-02, 2008-09, 2011, 2014, 2016-19)
Last finals appearance: 2019 (champions)
Goals for/against: 430-204
Finals opponents results: defeated Saddleback five times: 11-9 (9/11), 15-6 (9/22), 21-8 (9/23), 18-12 (OEC final), 10-8 (SoCal final)
The gold standard of CCCAA men's water polo, the four-time defending champion Rustlers are back looking for a fifth consecutive title. GWC captured its 32nd Orange Empire Conference title in a row with a potent offense and shutdown defense. The Rustlers are deep - 25 players - and boast five players with at least 30 goals on the year. Felipe Ferreira leads the way with 47 goals, followed by Itamar Kolodny's 39. Konstanatinos Koulaouris is one of the state's top all-around attackers with 34 goals and 30 assists and 38 steals, both team highs. Keeper Garrett Henderson is 20-1, tops in the CCCAA, with120 saves, a 51.3 save%, and only 114 goals-against in 22 games.
South #2 seed Saddleback College Bobcats
The Bobcats at a glance:
Head Coach: Jason Lynch (fifth year)
2021 Record: 27-7, 4-1 Orange Empire Conference
2021 Postseason: SoCal runner-up, Orange Empire runner-up
State championships: none
Last finals appearance: 1998Goals for/against: 559-265
Finals opponents results: fell
to GWC five times: 11-9 (9/11), 15-6 (9/22), 21-8 (9/23), 18-12 (OEC final), 10-8 (SoCal final)
The Bobcats enter the championship tourney as the most experienced of the four teams with 34 games played. Their 16.44 GPG is second to West Valley's in the CCCAA, which makes the SC/WVC first round matchup an intriguing, possibly high-scoring affair. Andrew Barnuevo's 95 goals are 10th in the CCCAA and are the most of any player in the tournament. Alec Isaacman is an all-around talent - 62 goals, 39 assists and 31 steals - as is Riley Kraatz with 42 goals, 20 assists and 25 steals. Keeper Nathan James is 17-5 entering the tourney, with 137 saves, a 49.6 save % and 139 goals-against in 22 games.