Lions Win WWPA Title, Face Stanford

Dec. 4, 2003

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Just Briefly
The seventh-ranked Loyola Marymount University men's water polo team won the 2003 Western Water Polo Association title and will make its second appearance in the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships on Dec. 6-7 at Stanford University. The Lions earned the number three seed in this year's tournament and will play second-seed Stanford Cardinal at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6. Top-seed USC will take on fourth-seed Navy in the other semifinal at 6:00 p.m.

The Polls
The Loyola Marymount University men's water polo team moved to its highest ranking of the season thanks to the WWPA title, moving to seventh in the nation. The Lions earned 67 points to move up one spot in the national poll for the third straight week. USC and Stanford occupy the top two spots in the poll and Navy is ranked 11th.

Coming Up
The Lions will open up the NCAA Men's Water Polo against the 2002 National Champions, Stanford. The Cardinal lost in the championship game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship game on Nov. 30 to top-seed USC. The Cardinal are led by All-American and U.S. National Team member Tony Azevedo, who is one of the best goal scorers in the nation with 81 this season. LMU and Stanford have met once this season with the Cardinal defeating the Lions at the Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center 11-4 on Oct. 12. Senior Tamas Szego led the Lions with two goals in the game. This will be the eighth meeting between the teams with Stanford going perfect in the series.

The Rest of the Field
The 2003 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship field has been set. Stanford (21-4), who won the title last year at the championships hosted by LMU, is the only team returning from a year ago. The Cardinal are the second seed and earned the at-large bid to the championship. The Lions (16-13) are making their second appearance in three years as the champions of the Western Water Polo Association and will play as the number three seed. USC (22-3), who won the MPSF, was given that conference's automatic bid and the number one seed in the tourney. They will face the winner of the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Navy (25-6). In addition to Stanford, the Lions played USC in the 2003 season, falling 11-6 at the Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center on Oct. 22. Like Stanford, LMU is 0-7 against the Trojans. Against Navy LMU is 0-2 all-time, losing in the SoCal Invitational in 2002, 14-5.

Lions At the NCAAs
This is the second trip for LMU to the NCAA Championships. Both trips have been to Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center, the site of this year's tournament. In 2001, LMU entered the championships 14-13 after defeating UC San Diego at the Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center for the WWPA title, 4-2. The Lions were given the number three seed in the tournament and faced number two seed UCLA in the semifinals. They would fall to the third-ranked Bruins 7-5. In the consolation game the Lions took third place with a 14-6 win over 16th-ranked UMass. Top-ranked Stanford defeated UCLA for the title. LMU finished the year 15-14.

A Look At the WWPA
There are 15 schools that make up the Western Water Polo Association, with the top eight earning a bid to the annual championships in late November. The Lions have done well against the WWPA the last several years. The Lions are a combined 69-62 all-time against this year's field, including this year's conference title. The WWPA is made of Air Force, BYU-Hawaii, Chaminade, Chapman, Claremont, Occidental, Pomona-Pitzer, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, La Verne, Redlands and Whittier.

The Championship
In a season that saw the Loyola Marymount University men's water polo team drop by ways of the heartbreaker one too many times, the end of the Western Water Polo Championships will serve as a quick eraser as the Lions won when it mattered most. The eighth-ranked Lions claimed a 6-5 win over seventh-ranked UC San Diego in the championship game of the Western Water Polo Championships on Friday night at Redlands University. With the win, the Lions win their second conference championship in the last three years. It was a fitting reversal of fortunes for the Lions. In the regular season the Lions were on the wrong end of heartbreakers all season, losing 10 of their 14 games by one-goal or in overtime. All 10 of those games came against teams ranked in the top-20 nationally, including two games at the hands of the Tritons. When it mattered most, the Lions answered the call. The Lions jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first quarter on a goal by senior Kris Barr at the 4:12 mark and then a senior Scott Smith tally with 3:19 on the clock. Barr, who finished the game with three goals to lead all scorers, scored his first on an extra-man attack. The Tritons would cut the lead in half on a goal by Chris Finegold at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter. Barr would get the goal right back with 2:56 remaining in the half. Brandon Borso would get the Tritons within one goal with 20 seconds left in the half to send the game into half with the score 3-2. LMU, who never trailed in the game, would take a two-goal lead once again on Barr's third tally with 4:44 left in the third frame. Less than 20 seconds later Finegold answered on an extra-man attack. Then just 23 seconds into the fourth quarter the Tritons would finally tie the game on Borso's second tally. LMU would then get two unanswered goals that would make the difference. Endre Rex-Kiss would knock home a score at the 5:43 mark to make the score 5-4 in favor of the Lions. Junior Sean Wimer would then get what would be the game winner with 4:44 left in the game. Chris Eicholz would cut the lead to one at 6-5 with 2:01 remaining in the game. Freshman goalie Ian Elliot made the final two minutes hold making several door-step saves to help left LMU to the win. He finished with nine saves.

First Two Rounds
LMU defeated UC Santa Cruz and the Air Force Academy in the first day of the Western Water Polo Association Championships at Redlands University on Friday. The Lions defeated UC Santa Cruz in the first round 12-4, setting up a rematch with Air Force in the semifinals. The two teams had met twice in the regular season, both earning a win. LMU held on to defeat the 17th-ranked Falcons, 9-8 to set-up another showdown with seventh-ranked UC San Diego in the championship game at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. Senior Tamas Szego scored the game winner for the Lions in a game that went back-and-forth for the entire four quarters.

Senior Leaders
This will be the final two games for four Lions who have compiled impressive stats in their tenure at LMU, including the first senior class to win a pair of WWPA titles. Seniors Tamas Szego, Ryan Chapatte, Scott Smith and Kris Barr will wrap up their careers with the men's water polo program. Entering into the NCAA Tournament, Chapatte is first all-time in games played with 120 and Szego is third with 117. Combined, this senior class has played 434 games at LMU. Barr and Smith have played in 99 and 98 games, respectively. While playing in a large number of contests for the Lions, this class has climbed up the career record charts. Chapatte is third all-time with 135 steals, tied for seventh with 147 goals and eighth with 56 assists. Szego is right behind Chapatte, scoring 127 goals (11th), with 56 assists (7th) and 75 steals (9th). Joining the two record holders is Smith with 62 goals, 58 steals (10th) and 21 assists and Barr with 89 goals (16th), 87 steals (6th) and 49 assists (12th).

Ranked Opponents
The two wins in the WWPA Tournament against seventh-ranked UC San Diego and 17th-ranked Air Force gave the Lions 20 games against teams in the top-20. LMU has a record of 7-13 against ranked opponents. Of the 20 games against ranked opponents, 17 have been against teams in the top-10. The Lions will get at least one more in the top-10 with second-ranked Stanford.

It has been a season filled full of heartbreakers for the Lions. LMU has played in 14 games that have been one-goal decisions and/or have gone to overtime. Of those games all have been to opponents ranked in the nation's top-20. LMU has posted a 4-10 mark with five of the 10 setbacks and one of the two wins coming in overtime. However, the Lions went 2-0 in one-goal games in the WWPA Tournament to advance to the NCAA Championships.

The 2003 season has seen a balanced offense as five Lions are among the top of the scoring list. Sophomore Endre Rex-Kiss, who was second on the team a year ago with 45 goals, leads the team with 54 in 2003, scoring five goals in the WWPA tournament. Rex-Kiss has scored four goals in a game three times this season (Whittier, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara) and has led the Lions in scoring in 12 times. Last year's scoring leader, senior Ryan Chapatte, had a four goals at the WWPA tourney and moved his total on the year to 48. Chapatte has also led the team in scoring in nine games this season. Senior Kris Barr has already topped his total from last season as he sits in a tie for third on the team with 30 tallies, including a hat-trick in the championship game against UC San Diego. Senior Scott Smith has had a hot streak to end the season, including five goals in the tournament, to enter the NCAAs with 30 goals. Senior Tamas Szego is fifth with 27 goals, also scoring five in the championships.

In Net
Freshman goalie Ian Elliot had a break through tournament at the SoCal Invitational, shutting down the top offenses in the nation last weekend and did not look back the rest of the year. The Tustin, Calif., native had 50 saves in four games at the SoCal Invite. On the season he has 233. He had 17 saves in the three-overtime heartbreaker to California and added 14 against fifth-ranked UCLA. Elliot was a two-time All-American at Foothill High School.

2003 Postseason Honors
At the end of the WWPA Championships, the Lions had four players named WWPA All-Conference. Freshman goalie Ian Elliot was the difference in the final two minutes of the championship game against UC San Diego to help lift LMU to the win. He was named first-team All-WWPA following the contest. Also earning All-WWPA first-team honors was senior Ryan Chapatte, his second consecutive first-team honor. Earning second team honors was senior Tamas Szego, his second time earning All-WWPA honors, earning honorable mention honors in 2001. Earning honorable mention honors this season went to sophomore Endre Rex-Kiss which is a follow-up to his second-team honors in 2002. In addition, Head Coach John Loughran earned his second Coach of the Year honors.

LMU Head Coach
In six previous seasons at the helm of the men's water program, Head Coach John Loughran has achieved unparalleled success. As he concludes his seventh season overseeing all three aquatic sports (men's and women's water polo and women's swimming), Loughran has built a program that continues to gain national exposure. In 2001, his men's water polo team won its first-ever Western Water Polo Association championship. He led the team there once again in 2003, the programs second in three seasons. They finished the season 15-14, earning a bid to the 2001 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship. The 2002 season finished with a 17-15 overall record and a second place finish in the WWPA with a 9-3 record. Adding to his impressive resume, Loughran has won five WWPA Coach of the Year honors, three in women's water polo (2001, 2002, 2003) and two in men's water polo (2001, 2003). He has posted an overall record of 112-93 (.540) for the men's team in six seasons, ranking him as the program's all-time winningest coach. He reached the century mark with the 8-7 win over 7th-ranked UC Irvine on Sept. 17. He has also earned a record of 113-64 (.618) with the women's water polo program, leading them to three straight WWPA championships.





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