Pacific scrimmage with national water polo team draws energetic crowd

fans sit in the stands at a water polo game

Water polo fans in Stockton were treated to an elite display of talent recently as University of the Pacific hosted the USA Men’s Junior National team for an exhibition game.

The scrimmage capped a week of joint practices between the teams as Pacific prepares for the upcoming season and the US Junior National team gets ready for the Junior World Championships in Romania this summer.

“The greatest part about being here is we get a chance to play against a talented team in Pacific,” said USA Head Coach Jack Kocur. “They have international experience on their team. It’s great to have an opportunity to scrimmage at the wonderful facility they have here at Water Polo U,” as the school is known.

The teams played six quarters with the sides alternately taking the lead.

a Pacific water polo player prepares to throw the ball

Pacific Senior Matthew Hosmer

“It helps both of our programs,” said senior Matthew Hosmer ’23, a former junior national team member who scrimmaged for the Tigers. “Getting this experience is essential. It helps us grow, develop and adapt to anything that we do in our lives.”

The event brought an impressive crowd to the Douglass M. Eberhardt Aquatics Center, including many local club and high school water polo athletes.

“This is what makes us Water Polo U,” said Pacific Head Coach and Team USA Assistant Coach James Graham. “There’s nowhere else in the country that, in an offseason training, brings out a huge crowd that has thunder sticks in their hands, scoreboard graphics for both teams, hype videos and puts on a great show in the pool in a competitive game for everyone to enjoy.” 

fans cheer during the exhibition game

“College games here are so much bigger,” added Chase Dodd, a Long Beach native vying for a spot on the junior national team roster. “I’ve played against this team here (as a player at UCLA), and it’s insane. I don’t think you have anywhere else where you get as many people at a game from the school and the community.”

Pacific water polo alumnus Mike Haley hopes that fans can look forward to continued events like this one.

“I think it’s a great idea. The concept is awesome,” Haley said. “I would like to see it grow in the future and include many high school programs, seeing and experiencing all of this built into the atmosphere.”

Pacific also has hosted international teams. The Canadian Men’s National Water Polo team was on the Stockton Campus in March of 2022 for a week of practice and scrimmages. The teams share three members: Bogdan DjerkovicJeremie Cote and Reuel D'Souza. The women’s team was joined by the Australian and New Zealand women’s national teams in the fall.

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Pacific vs. men's junior national water polo team