Freshman attacker Adam Csapo looks for an opening in the UC Santa Barbara defense Nov. 11 at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool. Csapo led the Waves with five goals. Photos by Brandon Rubsamen
No. 11 Pepperdine Men’s Water Polo left it late in their last regular-season game of the year. Against UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 12 at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool, the Waves scored on each of their last three possessions and overcame a two-point deficit with fewer than two minutes remaining.
The win means the Waves leave the 2022 regular season 13-13 overall with a 2-3 conference record. The last time Pepperdine had a losing record overall was in 2015.
Up next for the Waves is the GCC Championship, which pits Pepperdine against its five conference rivals. Thanks to their Nov. 12 victory, Pepperdine earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
The GCC Championship is a tournament of recent invention. The NCAA founded the conference in 2013 as a women’s only competition, according to the GCC website. When six members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation — Long Beach State, Pepperdine, San Jose State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific — broke away in 2016, they joined the GCC and formed the men’s division.
Pepperdine is no stranger to success in the GCC Championship — the Waves won the tournament in 2016 and 2019. Along with Long Beach State, who won the tournament in 2018 and 2021, the Waves are joint leaders in GCC Championship trophies.
During the inaugural 2016 season, Pepperdine finished fourth place in the GCC with a 2-3 record. The Waves ousted the regular season champions, UC Santa Barbara, on their way to becoming the first men’s GCC tournament champions.
The GCC Championship’s importance, beyond conference bragging rights, lies in its relation to the NCAA tournament — the winner receives an automatic bid to the most prestigious collegiate water polo tournament in the country. Pepperdine last won the NCAA tournament in 1997.
UC Santa Barbara is hosting the 2022 GCC Championship, meaning all the matches will be played at their facilities in Santa Barbara, Calif. The tournament kicks off Nov. 18, when Pepperdine takes on UC Irvine in the first round at 5 p.m.
Fans can watch Pepperdine’s match live on the GCC website.
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