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Long Beach enters second round NCAA tournament matchup on seven-game win streak

The 49ers face UC San Diego Thursday at Stanford.

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Long Beach enters second round NCAA tournament matchup on seven-game win streak

John Fajardo | LBSU Athletics

John Fajardo | LBSU Athletics

John Fajardo | LBSU Athletics

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After an opening round victory against Pomona-Pitzer Saturday, the Long Beach State men’s water polo team will play in the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1991.

LBSU will play 1 p.m. Thursday against UC San Diego at Stanford University. Both teams enter on a seven-game winning streak and will play for a a semifinal date with the Cardinal Saturday.

“I’m expecting a high-level game; I’m expecting a close game, so a lot of it is gonna come down to details and execution,” head coach Gavin Arroyo said.

There is no numerical seeding for the tournament, but the Tritons earned a bye heading into the quarterfinals.

UC San Diego edged the 49ers 7-5 on September 19.

“I think we need some payback from the earlier game we lost down in San Diego. That was a hard game to lose but that’s good because now we know how they play and how we play against them,” senior defender Keegan Wicken said.

Long Beach State is 1-0 in elimination games against teams that defeated it earlier in the year.

Freshmen have been leading the 49er offense this postseason. Utility Garrett Zaan, who has played for the US Youth National team, has been a standout player in elimination games. Most recently, he scored four goals in the victory against Pomona-Pitzer.  

“Our freshmen class is really strong,” Wicken said.

Wicken also noted that the 49er upperclassmen have been impressive recently. With a team-leading 12 assists, junior attacker Austin Stewart can identify hot shooters with game vision similar to a setter in volleyball. With a .675 shooting percentage, he can also score when needed, making him almost impossible to defend.

UCSD has a formidable two-way player in sophomore utility Connor Turnbow-Lindenstadt. His 68 goals and 23 steals lead the Tritons’ offensive attack.

UC San Diego enters the match as Western Water Polo Association conference champions. Its first round bye means it has not played since Nov. 18.

“They haven’t played since their conference [tournament] so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for us to get that game,” Arroyo said

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