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UC San Diego Men’s Club Water Polo Wins National Championship

The UC San Diego Men's Club Water Polo team poses for a group photo in a living room after winning a national title, smiling and holding a UC San Diego flag.
UC San Diego's Men's Club Water Polo team won bronze in 2019, silver in 2021, and captured gold at the close of 2022 after winning the Men’s National Collegiate Club Championship.

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The UC San Diego Men’s Club Water Polo team closed 2022 with a bang by winning the Men’s National Collegiate Club Championship against Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (SLO), earning their first national title nine years after their first championship appearance in 2013. 

“The moment the referees blew the whistle and ended the game, our team let out a huge sigh of relief,” said graduate player Graham McClone. “This championship felt long overdue—it validated everything we’d talked about for the past two years.” 

With their historic win, the Tritons completed their trifecta of bronze, silver and gold championship placards, after placing third in 2019 and second in 2021. Getting the gold has been a long time coming—this year, the team stepped up to reach out and grab it. 

A member of the men's water polo team is shown in the pool about the throw the ball.
Photo credit: CWPA

Sixteen conference-winning teams competed in Newberg, Oregon to vie for the coveted title of national club champion. Going into the National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships, the Tritons were seeded 5th after an undefeated season with a 15-0 record. 

“I believed the team had enough talent to win the tournament, but I was anxious about the decisive moments being in my hands,” said coach Hector Sanchez. “Thankfully, the players, parents and some alumni reminded me to trust my team and my instincts.”

After sailing through a game against 12th seed Dartmouth in the first round, the Tritons faced  4th seed UC Berkeley, ultimately emerging victorious. The now second-ranked team in the league played strongly against 3rd seed University of Michigan and secured their spot in the final game, where they faced 1st seed SLO. 

 “Going into the championship game, the energy was electric,” said head captain Malachi Sanders. “We knew that this was the moment we had been working towards. It was the culmination of years of hard work that led up to this game, and we were ready to go to war.” 

SLO took an early lead in the first quarter, but the Tritons quickly tied the score at halftime. scoring two goals in a row. UC San Diego senior Andrew Burda and McClone scored another two points in the third quarter that kept the game neck and neck at 5-5 despite SLO’s two scored points. Senior Jackson Cassidy scored the ultimately game-winning goal with 1:56 left in the game, cementing the final score as 7-5 and the Tritons as the 2022 national champions. 

The Men's Club Water Polo team poses with excitement just out of the pool after winning the national championship game, holding a UC San Diego flag.

"It was a super moment,” said Cassidy about his winning shot assisted by Matt Spry and McClone. “Our timing during the possession was immaculate and it was amazing to see the plays we run everyday at practice make such an impact in the championship game." 

In addition to being the 2022 National Club Champions, UC San Diego senior Jake Marquez was named this year’s Most Valuable Player; head coach Hector Sanchez received the Coach of the Tournament award. Marquez, McClone, and Triton goalie Parker George were selected for the First Team All-Tournament—meaning they were the best player in the league in their position—and Maxwell Black was selected for the Second Team All-Tournament. 

As part of the UC San Diego Recreation Department, Sports Clubs allow students to experience everything a competitive sport encompasses: commitment, challenges and contentment. The student-led teams attract over 2,000 students each year to explore a variety of diverse sporting interests in a positive, inclusive environment. 

“This environment creates a natural arena for experiential learning opportunities to take place and help develop the whole student,” said Dominic Ackerman, UC San Diego’s competitive sports director. “It empowers students and cultivates a sense of community through intercollegiate competition, leadership development, and engagement opportunities.”
For team president Parker Knopf, the memories, accomplishments, and tight-knit friendships he’s made on the team have been some of the most rewarding takeaways. 

“To be a part of the team that won it all and to forever be ingrained in the history of our club is absolutely amazing.” 

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