21 Top 25 Matchups Highlight Opening Weekend of Women’s Water Polo

The 2019 women’s water polo season begins today with six matches. Ahead of that, here’s a look at each of the seven automatic qualifying conferences. The preseason national poll has defending champion and MPSF titlist USC atop the rankings with a roster including four returning 2018 All-Americans. A complete look at the 66 returning All-Americans from across divisions is here.

Opening weekend matchups including 21 contests pitting two Top 25 ranked teams. Defending national champion #1 USC from the MPSF will face off with #9 Michigan out of the CWPA on Saturday to highlight the action. #3 UCLA faces off with #6 UC Irvine on Saturday in Santa Barbara, while the Bruins take on the #9 Wolverines on Sunday.

The full opening weekend schedule is below.

Big West

Regular season champion Hawaii was knocked off by third seed UC Irvine in the conference tournament. The Anteaters sewed up their league record eighth tournament crown with the title match win over the Rainbow Wahine, stealing away a National Collegiate Tournament berth. All six Big West teams ended up in the Top 20: #7 Hawaii (21-5), #8 UC Irvine (15-14), #10 UC Davis (18-12), #12 Long Beach State (13-14), #18 UC Santa Barbara (15-14) and #19 Cal State Northridge (15-18).

Eight Big West players were tabbed with All-America honors. Of that group, four return: Hawaii’s Irene Gonzalez (1st), UC Irvine’s Tara Prentice (2nd), LBSU’s Tori Morrisey (HM) and UCSB’s Kate Pipkin (HM). Gonzalez is back after garnering conference Player of the Year nods in 2018 and notching 53 goals and 36 assist, as is Freshman of the Year Isabel Rack from UC Irvine, who scored 25 goals.

An ace up UC Irvine’s sleeve is the return of Mary Brooks, the 2016 and 2017 Player of the Year and 2015 Freshman of the Year, who redshirted in 2018. Brooks is back with an eye on the Anteaters’ career scoring mark.

Different teams have won the regular season title each of the last three years and in three of the last four years, the league’s NCAA representative has not been the regular season champion. It is safe to say the race is wide open once again.

Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA)

Three-time defending champion Michigan returns six of its seven starters from the 2018 team which went 32-9. The Wolverines, which are ranked ninth in the CWPA Top 25, feature third team All-American Maddy Steere and honorable mention selection Julia Sellers.

Steere ranks second in school history for goals per game (1.603), assists per game (1.064) and points per game (2.667), while Sellers led the Wolverines with 81 goals to go with 33 assists and 46 steals. Both players were first team all-CWPA honorees.

Harvard, Princeton, Bucknell and Brown round out the CWPA preseason conference top five.

The Crimson, which went 17-19 in 2018, are led by honorable mention All-American and second team all-CWPA selection Kristen Hong, who netted a team-best 71 goals and added 40 assists and 40 steals. Harvard earned a spot in the preseason national poll, checking in at #21 after receiving votes in the final poll of 2018.

Princeton was the CWPA Tournament runner-up to cap off a 23-8 season, the program’s six 20 win season in the last seven years. Leading the way for the Tigers are second team All-CWPA honorees Lindsey Kelleher and Marissa Webb. The team will be in its first season under Derek Ellingson, who was promoted to head coach in June.

Division III’s Macalester College boasts four returning All-Americans in second teamers Courtney Overland and Lucy Moran and honorable mentions Oriana Galasso and Cara Mullery.

Golden Coast Conference

Pacific (18-8, 7-0) was picked to repeat as GCC champs with a roster including league Player of the Year and second team All-American Kyra Christmas as well as honorable mention All-American Mariana Duarte among 12 returning players. Christmas posted 61 goals and 40 assists, while Duarte turned in a team-leading 62 goals and 22 assists. Pacific is ranked #8 in the preseason national poll.

Runnerup Loyola Marymount (18-15, 6-1) was tabbed second in the preseason coaches poll, while San Diego State (15-16, 5-2), Fresno State (7-18, 3-4) and Cal Baptist (17-17, 3-4) rounded out the top five.

LMU will be led by honorable mention All-American Hana Vilanova, who returns after leading the league with 69 goals, and second team All-GCC selection Morgan Molloy, who put in 38 goals and notched a team-best 73 drawn exclusions.

SDSU brings back first team All-GCC selection Hannah Carrillo and second teamer Emily Bennett. Bennett posted 50 goals and 46 steals, while Carrillo managed 42 goals, 15 assists and 24 steals.

Cal Baptist boasts three All-Americans, first teamers Grace Ramirez and Lizette Perez and second team honoree Kira O’Donnell. Ramirez logged 246 saves and 56 steals, while Perez added 41 goals, 42 assists and 43 steals and O’Donnell notched 58 goals (1.81 per game) and 34 assists.

Other All-Americans returning for 2019 are Mar Pastor Alvarez (2nd) and Erica Marquez (HM) from Azusa Pacific, Dailynn Santoro (HM) of Concordia and Emily Nicholson (HM) of Fresno State.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)

Led by Preseason Player of the Year and 2018 Honorable Mention All-American Erica Hardy, the #14 Wagner Seahawks (25-7, 14-0) are the favorites to win the MAAC title after taking five straight crowns and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Hardy scored 85 goals and added 60 assists to lead the Seahawks to the conference’s regular season and tournament titles.

Marist (20-17, 12-2), Iona (13-23, 9-5) and Virginia Military Institute (20-12, 8-6) round out the top of half of the preseason poll. VMI boasts Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year among its ranks in Isabel French. French led the league in saves (306) and ranked fourth in save percentage (.564) and goals against average (8.79).

Honorable mention All-American Katherine Tijerina, a member of the All-MAAC preseason team, leads the Marist returners, alongside center Grace Doerfler. Iona’s Jordan van Reeken, St. Francis Brooklyn’s Kelsey Snelgar and Siena’s Diana Fernandez and Sophia Torres.

Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)

NCAA champion USC (26-1, 5-0) earned all six first place votes in the MPSF preseason poll after winning three of the last six conference titles. Newcomer of the Year Paige Hauschild and Player of the Year Amanda Longan are back alongside All-Americans Maud Megens and Denise Mammolito. Longan also was national player of the year after notching 214 saves and a 5.24 goals against average, while Hauschild also was a first team All-America selection with 68 goals.

Stanford (20-4, 3-2), UCLA (23-8, 2-3), Cal (20-6, 4-1) and Arizona State (16-9, 1-4) round out the league’ top five.

The Cardinal boast three returning All-Americans – Makenzie Fischer (1st), Aria Fischer (2nd) and Kat Klass (3rd) – while checking in at No. 2 in the national poll after a national runnerup finish a year ago. Makenzie Fischer led the MPSF with a 2.79 goals per game (67 total), including 19 multi-score games. Aria Fischer added 1.46 goals per game in MPSF play as a rookie, while Klass (also second team in 2016) is back for her senior season after adding 39 goals her junior year (1.63 per game in MPSF action).

The Bruins are No. 3 nationally and third in the league with a roster including three All-Americans: Maddie Musselman (1st), Bronte Halligan (3rd) and Carlee Kapana (HM). Musselman put in 1.83 goals per game (53 total) to go with 32 assists, 41 steals and 11 field blocks in 29 games. Halligan added a team-best 37 assists and 58 steals while scoring 31 goals (1.00 per game), Kapana posted 180 saves (9.21 per game) and 6.14 goals against average.

No. 4 Cal welcomes back three honorable mention All-Americans in Madison Tagg, Emma Wright and Kitty Lynn Joustra. Tagg returns for her senior season after making 166 saves and owning a 5.20 goals against average. Wright scored a team-high 47 goals (1.81 per game), while Joustra added 33 (1.43 per game).

ASU is fifth nationally with second teamer Bente Rogge and honorable mention selection Maud Hoppman among its ranks.

Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC)

Pomona-Pitzer (22-11, 14-0), the lone Division III member of the NCAA Tournament field, will aim for its second straight SCIAC regular season and tournament titles after topping Cal Lutheran 8-2 in the championship match last year.

Three All-Americans are back from that Sagehen roster, including first teamer Natalie Hill, second teamer Kahea Kahaulelio and honorable mention selection Anna Yu, as is Division III Coach of the Year Alex Rodriguez. Hill scored 18 goals and chipped in a team-best 23 assists and 28 steals. Kahaulelio accounted for 48 goals, 22 assists and 36 steals, while Yu posted 48 points on 33 goals and 15 assists.

Cal Lutheran (21-9, 12-2), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (18-10, 11-3), Whittier (9-17, 7-7) and Chapman (10-17, 6-8) rounded out the league’s top five in 2018.

Cal Lutheran, LaVerne and the University of Redlands boast two returning All-Americans apiece. The Regals return first teamers Bailey Meyer and Victoria Rose Meek, while LaVerne’s roster includes first team selection Jassmine Kezman, the SCIAC Newcomer of the Year, and honorable mention honoree Shelby Garcia. The Redlands brings back Kolby Kahahawai (2nd) and Katelyn Jenkins (HM).

Western Water Polo Association (WWPA)

UC San Diego, which won the regular season and WWPA tournament titles and was the only Division II team to advance to the national tournament, is #15 nationally. The Tritons bring back four All-Americans, including first teamer Chanel Schilling, who registered 29 goals, five assists and a team-best 45 exclusions drawn as a junior.

Second teamers Reilly Gallagher and Krista Schneider and honorable mention selection Taylor Onstott also return. Gallagher made 143 saves while posting a 15-7 record in the net. Schneider notched 17 goals, 44 assists and 34 steals, while Onstott added 41 goals (1.28 per game), 18 assists and 45 steals.

League runnerup Cal State East Bay returns Division II Player of the Year honoree Auriel Bill alongside fellow first team All-American Adrien Van Dyke. Bill put in 47 goals and added a team-best 48 assists and 42 steals, while Van Dyke led the league with 47 goals and ranked fourth in total points as a rookie.

Fresno Pacific returns first teamer Sam Witt, while Gannon, McKendree and Sonoma State each boast one 2018 All-American on their respective rosters.

Date Visitor Home Neutral Location
Jan. 18 Azusa Pacific #18 Cal State Northridge Santa Barbara, Calif.
#24 Cal Baptist #17 UC Santa Barbara
Asuza Pacific #1 USC Santa Barbara, Calif.
#18 Cal State Northridge #3 UCLA Santa Barbara, Calif.
#24 Cal Baptist #1 USC Santa Barbara, Calif.
Fresno Pacific UC Davis
Jan. 19 Santa Clara UC Davis
#13 Indiana #15 UC San Diego Santa Barbara, Calif.
RV Fresno State #1 USC Santa Barbara, Calif.
#18 Cal State Northridge #9 Michigan Santa Barbara, Calif.
#14 Wagner #6 UC Irvine Santa Barbara, Calif.
Fresno Pacific #8 Pacific Davis, Calif.
#22 Marist #19 San Diego State Honolulu, Hawaii
#9 Michigan #1 USC Santa Barbara, Calif.
Asuza Pacific #15 UC San Diego Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sonoma State #6 Hawaii
#13 Indiana #17 UC Santa Barbara
#24 Cal Baptist #3 UCLA Santa Barbara, Calif.
Asuza Pacific #14 Wagner Santa Barbara, Calif.
#20 San Jose State UC Davis
Sonoma State #19 San Diego State Honolulu, Hawaii
#3 UCLA #6 UC Irvine Santa Barbara, Calif.
#4 Cal #20 San Jose State Davis, Calif.
#18 Cal State Northridge #24 Cal Baptist Santa Barbara, Calif.
#22 Marist #6 Hawaii
RV Fresno State #17 UC Santa Barbara
Jan. 20 #19 San Diego State #6 Hawaii
#14 Wagner #17 UC Santa Barbara
Sonoma State #22 Marist Honolulu, Hawaii
RV Fresno State #9 Michigan Santa Barbara, Calif.
#1 USC #15 UC San Diego Santa Barbara, Calif.
#9 Michigan #3 UCLA Santa Barbara, Calif.
#14 Wagner #15 UC San Diego Santa Barbara, Calif.
RV Fresno State #13 Indiana Santa Barbara, Calif.
#13 Indiana #1 USC Santa Barbara, Calif.
#3 UCLA #17 UC Santa Barbara

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