MPSF, NCAA tourney teams full of SB Aquatics alums

Santa Barbara Aquatics Club was well represented at the 2011 MPSF water polo championships held at UCLA this past weekend.

The club also has a presence at this weekend’s Division I NCAA Championships at UC Berkeley.

Danny White (SBAC/Rio Mesa) and Parker Peterson (SBAC/SBHS) are juniors at Pepperdine who both played for the Waves at the MPSF tournament. White was Pepperdine’s leading scorer as a sophomore. Pepperdine, seeded 6th, faced third-ranked UCLA in the opening game of the MPSF. In a close fought match, UCLA won 5-4 in the second overtime.

Fifth-seeded UCSB faced off against No. 4 Stanford in the team’s second meeting of the season. Stanford’s roster included Ian Gamble (SBAC/Santa Barbara High), Hunter Ploch (SBAC/SBHS), and Conner Cleary (SBAC/DPHS). SBAC players at UCSB include Jesse Gillespie (SBAC/Arroyo Grande), Matt Johnson (SBAC/Righetti), Chase Racich (SBAC/Dos Pueblos), brothers Brian and Derek Shoemaker (SBAC/DPHS), and Nick Tomasello (SBAC/Rio Mesa).

Conner Cleary started for the Cardinal at center and also served as a two-meter defender. Ploch was backup goalie for the Cardinal and is one to watch in 2012. Stanford took a 4-1 lead in the first quarter with Cleary playing a key role in sparking the Cardinal fast break by countering from behind the USCB center. Stanford nursed their lead until late in the fourth quarter when UCSB pulled even with goals from Racich and a beautiful cross cage shot from Brian Shoemaker that tied the game. Stanford responded after a timeout and went up 11-10 with less than two minutes remaining. Brian Shoemaker’s strong drive to center in the last 30 seconds failed to score and the Gauchos were relegated to the 5th-8th game on Saturday vs. University of the Pacific. Stanford advanced to play UC Berkeley for 1st-4th.

SBAC alumni Daniel Lungu (SBAC/DPHS/LB City College) is a senior attacker for Pacific and the team’s fourth-leading scorer. In another close match Lungu scored a penalty shot for the Tigers and helped lead his team to an 11-10 victory over UCSB. Jessie Gillespie led the Gauchos with three goals and Derek Shoemaker had one. Stanford lost its bid to upset first seed USC and ended up fourth overall after a one-point loss to Cal.

UCSB defeated Pepperdine in the seventh-place game. In that match Matt Johnson had an outstanding game at center, scoring two goals while Chase Racich and Brian Shoemaker, and Nick Tomasello each scored one. Danny White scored once for Pepperdine.

UCLA won the 2011 MPSF Championship in a sudden death overtime victory over USC.

SBAC’s Jeff Cole (SBAC/SBHS) a senior center and defender from Princeton, will represent Santa Barbara at the NCAA Championship in Berkeley this weekend. Cole helped lead SBAC to the 2006 18U National Junior Olympic Championship before attending Princeton where he ranked third on the team in scoring during his freshman year and second as a sophomore.

As Co-Captain during this, his senior year, Cole rehabbed from a re-occurring shoulder injury in time to help lead Princeton to a 10-7 victory over Navy in the Eastern Conference Championship. The win earned Princeton a berth in the 2011 NCAA Championship. Cole and the Tigers also qualified for the 2009 NCAAs where they took third with their first-ever NCAA tourney win over Loyola Marymount.

Santa Barbara fans watching the MPSF tournament saw 11 SBAC alumni playing for the top eight teams in the United States. Many of these young men started with SBAC 12U boy’s teams and went on to become high school All-Americans and are now playing at the pinnacle of college water polo. When UCSB plays Stanford, a third of the players in the water are Santa Barbara alumni.

For a club to have this many athletes in the water on NCAA Division I teams ranked first through eighth is a tribute to the tradition of excellence in boy’s water polo at SBAC. Congratulations to the SBAC coaches who worked with these youngsters and to their parents for the countless trips to workouts and tournaments.

SBAC’s alumni at MPSF schools are attending the finest universities in the U.S. and competing at the pinnacle of United States collegiate water polo.

SBAC’s Brian Shoemaker and Chase Racich were named to the All-MPSF honorable mention team. Shoemaker scored 23 goals this season (fifth amongst the Gauchos). More importantly, he led the team with 39 earned ejections. Racich scored 28 goals (third on the squad) and had eight multiple goal games. Racich and Derek Shoemaker are part of Wolf Wigo’s “fabulous freshmen” class of 2011. Both started the majority of games for the Gauchos.

This is the first time in UCSB water polo history that a freshman class has played such a significant role in propelling a top-5 team into the post season.

Wigo is a three time Olympian who knows how to win at every level. Needless to say his UCSB squad is a team to watch next season.

Story by Peter Neushul