Courtesy: The WWPA
VISTA, Calif. – The Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) announced the addition of four familiar institutions to the men’s membership starting with the 2023 season, WWPA Commissioner Mitch Carty announced Tuesday.
Gannon University, McKendree University, Mercyhurst University and Salem University – all of which compete in the WWPA women’s conference – will join the WWPA on the men’s side. They come on board with current WWPA members Concordia, Biola and Fresno Pacific to provide the conference with a seven-team field starting in Fall 2023.
“The WWPA is thrilled for the addition of these four institutions into the men’s conference. This realignment expands our footprint and adjusts to the quickly-changing national landscape for men’s water polo,” said Carty. “It also offers an increased number of student-athletes the opportunity to compete for a conference championship and contend for a national championship. We’re looking forward to the fall of 2023 and the future of the conference.”
Gannon, located in Erie, Pa., won the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division II conference championship four straight years from 2018 to 2021. Head coach Shane Unger’s squad also won MAWPC West Region titles five out of the last seven years. The Golden Knights, a NCAA Division II member with 22 programs, competes primarily in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
McKendree started its water polo programs in 2017. Head coach Colleen Lischwe coaches both the men’s and women’s teams; she is one of three women who coach men’s collegiate water polo programs nationwide. The Bearcats took home the 2020-21 and 2018 MAWPC West Region title, and won back-to-back MAWPC West Division regular season titles in 2020-21 and 2021. Located in Lebanon, Ill., McKendree boasts 36 NCAA DII intercollegiate athletics teams which primarily play in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).
Mercyhurst and Gannon are separated by just a 10-minute drive in Erie. Hurst student-athletes excel in the classroom, demonstrating a commitment to both athletic and academic excellence, as they boast an impressive 3.4 cumulative GPA. The hard work of the players and coaching staff, led by Petar Momcilovic, highlight the strong tradition of Mercyhurst water polo, one of 27 standout programs at the school.
Salem University captured the 2022 CWPA DII title en route to a 15-14 campaign. Head coach Robert Bullion earned his third ACWPC DII Coach of the Year award and three Tigers were named first-team All-America. Located in Salem, W.Va., the Tigers have 13 intercollegiate athletic programs primarily competing as an NCAA Division II Independent.
“The Executive Committee is pleased that by having our [women’s] East Region schools joining us on the men’s side that the WWPA will continue to offer a competitive, equitable playing field that will offer student-athletes avenues to success,” said WWPA Men’s Executive Council President Bryan Huettmann. “It will be a bonus for collegiate men’s water polo and the student-athlete experience that a NCAA Division II institution will be an automatic qualifier and have representation at the national championship.”
Starting with the 2023-24 season, six institutions will have both their men’s and women’s programs competing in the WWPA – Biola, Fresno Pacific, Gannon, McKendree, Mercyhurst and Salem. Concordia (men), Cal State East Bay (women) and Cal State Monterey Bay (women) round out the membership.
Founded in 1981, the WWPA competes within the NCAA and qualifies for the NCAA’s automatic bid to the National Collegiate Water Polo Championships for both men and women. The WWPA features a championship tournament at the conclusion of both the men’s and women’s seasons, with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA’s. The men’s championship normally runs the third weekend of November while the women’s championship takes place the final weekend of April.
Great move! Excellent way to build the sport, break away from the corruption that is Dan Sheridan and the CWPA, and highlight the talent and opportunities at the D2 level.