All Eyes on the UC Irvine Invitational
UC Irvine Invitational (Irvine & Corona del Mar)
No. 15 UC Davis Aggies vs. No. 5 UC Irvine Anteaters
Date / Time: Sat. Feb. 22, 2014 - 11:45 AM
Site: Irvine, Calif. - Anteater Aquatics Complex
Remaining matches: TBD (1 Sat., 2 Sun.)
UC IRVINE INVITATIONAL
As March nears, it means the UC Irvine Invitational is coming. Widely-known as the top tournament of the water polo season with nine of the top 10 ranked schools and 14 ranked schools overall in the field.
USC took the 2013 Invitational with a 13-10 upset over No. 1 Stanford. It was the second title for the Trojans who also captured the 2010 title. UCLA also has a pair of titles while Stanford rounds out the field of the only three schools to win the invite and leads the pack with three titles. No school has ever won the title in consecutive seasons.
The usual suspects remain at the top of the field: USC No. 1, Stanford No. 2, UCLA No. 3 and Cal No. 4.
For UC Irvine, it was a step up in the competition making it to the winner's bracket for the first time in program history and finishing seventh. The Anteaters come is as the No. 5 seed, their highest standing entering this tournament.
There has been some shifting in the ranks leading to intriguing opening-round matchups:
Upstart UCSD who jumped all the way to No. 6 early in the season has fallen a little of late and will begin with a matchup with currently sixth-ranked Hawaii.
A pair of hard-nosed programs go at it to determine who will take on USC in the second round with LMU and a CSUN squad that benefitted from a good showing at the Triton Invite.
An intriguing 1-4 matchup sees UCLA take on San Diego State. While the Aztecs have dropped considerably in 2014, they have a formidable track record and could possibly provide some early-round drama.
Beyond the winner's bracket, the UCI invite has proven to be a great testing ground for all programs involved as they set up for the meat of their seasons including conference play. Schools like Cal State Bakersfield, who is looking for its first win in the history of the invite, look to make waves. Others like Arizona State, San Jose State, and Hawaii who all come in with even 14-14 records look to make their mark.
The invite takes place between Anteater Aquatics Complex and Marian Bergeson Pool on the campus of Corona del Mar High School. Results can be tracked via the tournament page on the hoe website, ucirvinesports.com.
Live blogs will be up and running for both days from the pool deck of the Anteater Aquatics Complex.
UCI is ranked No. 5 for the first time in program history.
UC Irvine's win over No. 4 Arizona State matched the highest-ranked opponent UCI has defeated in the program's history. The 'Eaters upset No. 4 Hawaii in February of 2007, 10-4.
The Anteaters are averaging 10.8 goals per match. Without the 20-goal performances, UCI is still averaging 8.9 goals per match.
The second quarter against USC was just the second period all season the 'Eaters have been shut out in (third quarter vs. Cal).
UCI and UCLA battled Thursday night to open the home schedule for the 'Eaters. UCLA roared back in the fourth quarter to win 6-5 after each squad held the lead multiple times throughout the match.
UC Irvine captured Big West Player of the Week in each of the first two weeks of competition by Hannah Croghan and McKenna Mitchell.
The Anteaters began the season ranked sixth in the nation. UCI finished 2013 at No. 7 with a record of 21-9.
UCI captured a share of the Big West regular season title in 2013, its fourth to match the four Big West Tournament titles.