Cal Women’s Water Polo Reaches First NCAA Final Since 2011; Will Face Undefeated UCLA

#3 Cal Beats #2 Hawaii 9-6

Courtesy: Cal Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. – For the first time since 2011 – and the second time in program history – the No. 3 California women’s water polo team is headed to the NCAA Championship game.

The Golden Bears (19-6) came out on fire in Saturday’s NCAA semifinal against No. 2 Hawaii (23-4) and never looked back, holding at least a three-goal lead for the entirety of the second half. As has been the case since the first game of the season, Cal was powered by its defense, which held an opponent to a season low in goals for the third time in the Bears’ last four games of this postseason.

Despite splitting the season series with the Rainbow Wahine, Cal had recent history on its side, having jumped out to an electric five-goal, first-quarter lead the last time the two teams faced off at Spieker Aquatics Complex on Mar. 10. This time around, the Bears went ahead by five goals just before halftime, thanks to a six-goal outburst over a span of just over six minutes.

It was the fifth time that Cal has scored a season-best six goals in a quarter this season, thanks to a game-changing run led by senior Maryn Dempsey. After scoring the game’s opening goal on a breakaway feed down the left side from senior goalkeeper Isabel Williams less than four minutes into the game, Dempsey took charge in the second quarter with a shot clock buzzer beater from the right side and a 6-on-5 goal on the left wing that deflected in off a defender’s arm.

The freshmen got involved next. Right after Dempsey secured her first-half hat trick, Julia Bonaguidi found Feline Voordouw with time and space to fire one into the top-right netting. Voordouw earned a penalty a minute later, leading to a Bonaguidi goal from five meters that trickled in after nearly being stopped.

Cal’s juniors linked up several minutes later, as Jessie Rose found Rozanne Voorvelt sneaking in behind the defense for a quick strike. On the very next play, a Williams save led to a counter and another swift attack that ended with Voorvelt setting up freshman Julianne Snyder right in front of goal.

The Bears added one more goal in the second half from junior Elena Flynn. She collected a feed inside from Voorvelt and quickly rose up in the heart of the Hawaii defense to power in her 44th goal of the season. Williams continued to make save after save down the stretch, including stopping her eighth penalty in nine games to preserve Cal’s three-goal lead with 3:48 to go.

Williams ended the day with 14 saves and an assist. Voorvelt and Rose tallied two assists each. Dempsey finished with her sixth hat trick of the year and has now scored in all 25 games this year.

With the win, Cal head coach Coralie Simmons will become the first female head coach in NCAA Championship game history. Simmons and the Bears will face undefeated No. 1 UCLA (25-0) for the third time this season.

In their first matchup on Apr. 13, the Bears were narrowly defeated 7-6 at home in a tightly-contested thriller that went down to the final possession. Two weeks ago, the Bruins earned a 13-10 win over Cal in the MPSF Championship final in Indiana.

The Bears and the Bruins will face off at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and ESPN+. Live stats will be provided by 6-8 Sports.

No. 3 California 9, No. 2 Hawaii 6
Cal 2 6 0 1 – 9
UH 1 2 1 2 – 6
Cal Goals
Maryn Dempsey 3, Claire RowellJulia BonaguidiElena FlynnRozanne VoorveltJulianne SnyderFeline Voordouw
UH Goals: Bernadette Doyle 3, Bia Mantellato Dias 2, Alba Bonamusa Boix
Cal SavesIsabel Williams 14
UH Saves: Daisy Logtens 11

Courtesy: Hawaii Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. — A landmark season for the No. 2 University of Hawai’i women’s water polo team came to an end with a 9-6 loss to third-seeded and host California in the semifinals of the Women’s National Collegiate Water Polo Championship on Saturday at the Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley, Calif.

Playing in Cal’s home pool for the second time this season, the Rainbow Wahine fell behind early and the Golden Bears held off UH’s comeback attempts to advance to Sunday’s national championship game.

UH junior Bernadette Doyle closed the season with a hat trick and sophomore center Bia Mantellato Dias scored two of UH’s three goals in the first half to finish the season with a team-high 64. Goalkeeper Daisy Logtens made 11 saves and closed her freshman year with 211, the eighth-highest single season total in program history.

UH’s march to the NCAA semifinals capped Maureen Cole‘s farewell season as head coach. Cole announced in November that she would retire following the 2024 season and the Rainbow Wahine (23-4) gave her a historic sendoff that included the program’s ascent to its highest national ranking and NCAA tournament seed.

The season was also highlighted by UH’s first win over Stanford, two over USC, and a perfect run through the Big West season to claim the regular-season and tournament titles. UH posted its highest win total since going 25-10 in 2001 and the 2024 Rainbow Wahine set a program record with an .852 winning percentage.

“I’m just really proud of the Wahine team this year and this game in particular,” said Cole, who finished her 13-year head coaching career with a 226-96 record. “It didn’t go the way we wanted it to. But they fought until the end and that’s just a testament to the people they are, they’re a great group do girls, there no (other) group I would want to spend the past nine months with and just proud of their efforts.”

Cole spent 18 years in the program, starting with her stint as an assistant coach, and closed her career by leading UH to its eighth NCAA Championship appearance overall and fifth during her head coaching tenure. Associate head coach James Robinson will step into the role next season.

The semifinal appearance also punctuated the careers of UH seniors Alba Bonamusa BoixLucia Gomez de la PuenteLot Stertefeld and Emma Gurasich. Bonamusa Boix scored the 208th goal of her career in the third quarter to finish fourth on UH’s all-time list.

UH reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2013 and made a bid to become the first team outside the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation to play in the title game since Loyola Marymount’s appearance in 2004. But power plays proved to be a key in Saturday’s outcome with Cal converting on five opportunities, including a penalty show, in the first half to take an 8-3 lead into the break.

On the defensive end, UH held the Bears to one goal in the second half. But the ‘Bows saw scoring opportunities turned away and UH finished 2 for 17 on power plays. Doyle scored twice in the fourth quarter, bringing UH to within three on both occasions, and completed her hat trick with a shot into the low left corner with 4:27 left in the final goal of the game.

“I feel very proud to be a part of this team,” Doyle said. “We just tried to make Hawai’i proud and the university. We were right there and we fought right to the end.”

Cal’s Maryn Dempsey posted a hat trick in the first half, goalkeeper Isabel Williams made 14 saves and the Bears picked up their second win in three meetings with the ‘Bows this season.

Cal (19-6) will face top-seeded UCLA (24-0) for the national championship on Sunday at 7 p.m. Pacific Time (4 p.m. Hawai’i Time). The title game will be televised on ESPNU.

#1 UCLA Stays Undefeated, Beats 2-Time Defending Champions, #4 Stanford 10-8

Courtesy: UCLA Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. — Top-ranked UCLA (25-0) took down the two-time defending NCAA Champion, fourth-seeded Stanford, 10-8 on Saturday afternoon at California’s Spieker Aquatics Complex. With the win, UCLA improved to 40-60 all-time against the Cardinal, with a 3-0 clean sweep in 2024.

UCLA had a total of six different players score in the contest, paced by a hat trick from freshman Panni Szegedi. Senior Malia Allen and sophomore Genoa Rossi each scored twice for the Bruins. Junior Molly Renner (one goal and two assists) and Allen (added an assist) tied Szegedi for team-high scoring honors with three points.

Steele got the start in the cage and went the distance, tallying 12 saves and three steals while allowing eight goals.

The Bruins won the first quarter, 2-1. Szegedi scored the opening goal, converting a penalty shot that was drawn by graduate student Brooke Doten (4:39). After a goal by the Cardinal (3:51), freshman Becca Melanson ended the scoring (0:53) in the second period to give the Bruins the lead.

Stanford won the second period, 3-2, to knot the game at 4-4 at the break. Allen scored off a feed from Renner (6:16) to make it 3-1 Bruins. After a power play goal by Stanford (3:02), Allen scored her second straight on a power play (1:39) to push the lead to 4-2. The Cardinal scored the final two goals of the first half (1:23 and 0:44).

UCLA took control of the game in the third period, winning it 4-2, to take an 8-6 lead into the final stanza. Renner scored a power play goal (6:48) to put UCLA back in front. Then Rossi scored a power play goal (3:25) and Szegedi scored from distance (2:24) to put UCLA up 7-4. But Stanford answered with back-to-back goals (2:10 and 1:32) to trim the Bruins’ lead to 7-6. Rossi would provide the Bruins with some momentum heading into the fourth, scoring her second goal to end the scoring in the third (1:11) with a strike from the front court.

The two teams played to a 2-2 draw in the fourth period to provide the 10-8 final. Smith would score the eventual game-winning goal (4:48) on a power play off a feed from graduate student Hannah Palmer to push the lead to 9-6. The Bruins would enjoy their largest lead of the game at 10-6 after Szegedi converted a penalty that was drawn by sophomore Anna Pearson (3:40), completing her hat trick in the process. With the Bruins looking to cede possessions the rest of the way, Stanford managed to score twice in the final minutes (1:49 and 0:01), but the outcome was never in doubt.

UP NEXT: The Bruins will play for their eighth NCAA Championship in women’s water polo at No. 3 California at 7:00 p.m. PT on ESPN. The Golden Bears defeated No. 2 Hawai’i in the other semifinal, 9-6. California has never won an NCAA Championship in women’s water polo.

No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 4 Stanford (NCAA Championship – Semifinals – Game 25)

SCOREBOARD 1 2 3 4 FINAL
No. 4 Stanford 1 3 2 2 8
No. 1 UCLA 2 2 4 2 10

Penalties – UCLA – 2/2 – STAN – 0/0

STAN Goals: Kamryn Barone 4, Sophia Sanders 2, Christina Hicks 1, Quinn Healy 1
STAN Saves: Maya Avital 5

UCLA Goals: Panni Szegedi 3, Malia Allen 2, Genoa Rossi 2, Taylor Smith 1, Becca Melanson 1, Molly Renner 1
UCLA Saves: Lauren Steele 12

Courtesy: Stanford Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. – No. 4 Stanford came up short in its bid for an NCAA three-peat, falling to No. 1 UCLA 10-8 on Saturday in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship at the Spieker Aquatics Complex.

Stanford (19-7, 4-2 MPSF) was attempting to reach its 13th NCAA final over the last 14 seasons but settled for its first semifinal finish since 2021.

Tied 4-4 at halftime, UCLA (25-0, 6-0 MPSF) surged ahead in the second half, scoring four goals in the third period to take control.

Kamryn Barone produced her ninth multi-goal performance of the season, scoring a game-high four goals to keep Stanford within striking distance while closing out an impressive rookie campaign.

The Bruins never trailed but were unable to pull away in the first half. The Cardinal overcame deficits of 3-1 and 4-2, entering halftime knotted at 4-4 following Barone’s second goal and a strike from Quinn Healy in the final minute.

UCLA stretched its lead to 7-4 in the third period before Stanford punched back again. Christina Hicks found the cage with 2:10 left in the quarter and Barone followed with her third score 40 seconds later to make it 7-6.

Three straight goals by the Bruins spanning the third and fourth quarters put the game out of reach.

Maya Avital made five saves in goal, wrapping up a stellar career in which she compiled 203 saves, good for second on the all-time list behind school record-holder Meredith McColl (2004-07) with 715.

The nation’s only program to have participated at every NCAA Championship since the event’s inception in 2001, Stanford was seeking its 10th NCAA title. The Cardinal, which had defeated USC in the last two national championships, also won it all in 2019, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2002.

Saturday’s gamed marked the final competition for Stanford’s six-member senior class of Avital, Hicks, Skyler JonesSam SternfelsCeleste Wijnbelt and Talie Wilmans, along with fifth-year senior Sophie Wallace. All seven players were two-time NCAA champions (2022-23) and two-time MPSF champions (2022-23).

Barone and Healy emerged as valuable first-year contributors for Stanford, which could welcome back some serious firepower in 2025 as Serena BrowneJenna FlynnRyann NeushulJewel Roemer and Ella Woodhead took a leave of absence in 2024 to train and compete with their respective national teams in preparation for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

Stanford Goals: Kamryn Barone (4), Sophia Sanders (2), Quinn Healy (1), Christina Hicks (1).

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Owlmando
16 days ago

We love an underdog story