Watered Down II: The First Step on a 108 Day Journey to Princeton
“Every day you may make
progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out
before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving
path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But
this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of
-- Sir Winston Churchill (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister, 1874-1965)
BRIDGEPORT, Pa. - 108 days - 2,592 hours - 155,520 minutes - 9,331,200 seconds until the 2009 champion is decided.
As 42 teams start the season, the road to winning the 2009 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship begins today as the preseason men's varsity Top 20, Division III Top 10 and Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Top 10 polls were released by the league office.
For one team, the journey will end with a championship trophy, while the other 41 will wait for another chance with the journey and the hopes of a league championship their sole rewards.
Leading the way will be the Trojans of the University of Southern California. USC, which knocked off host Stanford University 7-5 last year to capture the 2009 NCAA title, is favored to repeat according to the coaches as the Trojans received 100 points for a unanimous selection to the top spot in the preseason poll.
Trailing behind on paper and before games begin is Stanford University as the Cardinal are coming off their second place finish a year ago with their eyes and goal set on becoming the 21st Century's ninth NCAA champion.
Perennial contenders the University of California-Los Angeles and University of California-Berkeley are close behind in the poll at No. 3 and 4, respectively, as the Bruins and Golden Bears are primed to roar into the top two positions in the poll if USC or Stanford falter in the early going.
However, do not discount the possibility of a radical shift in the Top 10 after the first weekend of play as Pepperdine University, which finished second in the final 2008 poll, Loyola Marymount University, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of California-Irvine, Long Beach State University and University of California-San Diego are all within striking distance of making a run at the No. 1 spot.
On the East Coast, Princeton University is the early favorite to conquer the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) as the Tigers will strive to win the program's third Eastern title and earn a spot at the NCAA Championship tournament. For Princeton, which previlously won Eastern titles in 1992 and 2004, a bid to NCAAs will have special meaning as the Tigers are set to host the 2009 event on December 5-6 at DeNunzio Natatorium.
Standing in the way of possible Princeton NCAA home games are the United States Naval Academy, Brown University, Bucknell University, Johns Hopkins University and the rest of the CWPA membership.
Navy, which captured its third straight CWPA Eastern title and fifth Eastern championship since the year 2000,will enter the year No. 12 in the country as the Midshipmen will seek to make CWPA league history.
Last year, Navy defeated Princeton 9-6 at the Naval Academy for the Eastern title for the third consecutive championship and 10th overall title in the program's history. as the squad previously captured the 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007 crowns,.
The 2009 season brings another possible milestone as the Midshipmen can become just the third program to win four straight CWPA Eastern Championships joining Bucknell (1977-80) and the University of Massachusetts (1993-96).
Johns Hopkins, Bucknell and Brown will join Princeton in attempting to snap the Midshipmen's dominance of the league as the Bears, Bison and Blue Jays will strive to return to the top of the league standings.
Brown, which has not won an Eastern title since 1985, enters the 2009 season ranked 17th in the country. The four-time Eastern Champion Bears, with titles in 1981 and a three-year run from 1983-85, is the preseason favorite to win the Northern Division title.
In the Southern Division, Bucknell comes into 2009 ranked 18th in the preseason poll with five previous Eastern titles (1975, 1977-80) and a 29-year championship drought, while Johns Hopkins received votes in the preseason balloting, ranked No. 1 in the Division III Top 10 poll and will go for the program's first-ever Eastern title and a berth in the NCAA Championship field.
So, for 41 teams the journey will end short of the goal. But in the meantime, enjoy the trip.