There’s a New No. 1 In Women’s College Water Polo

PHOENIX, Arizona, April 25. THERE'S a new No. 1 in women's college water polo. Stanford took over the top spot from USC after the Trojans' seven-week run of being in first place. In the final weekend of match play, several key games took place that solidified conference championship seedings and brought longtime foes face to face.

We'll look at the individual matchups first, then give a brief preview of the conference championships, all of which take place April 26-28.

No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 5 California, April 19
The top-ranked Stanford Cardinal closed out its fourth straight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) undefeated season with a 8-4 win over No. 5 California. The Cardinal captured its 33rd straight win over the Golden Bears in the “Big Splash.”

After a wild first period which ended in a 3-3 tie, the scoring was limited to a single Stanford goal in the second period, making it 4-3 at the half. Cal tied it up early in the third period, then was held scoreless for the remainder of the game. The Cardinal scored four goals for their 8-4 victory.

Stanford was led by Kiley Neushul and Maggie Steffens both of whom scored three goals. Kaley Dodson and Melissa Seidemann added goals to the Stanford cause. Cal's goal scorers were Kelly McKee, Pippa Saunders, Victoria Williams and Ashley Young. Both goalies–Stanford's Kate Baldoni and Cal's Savannah Smith–recorded seven saves during the contest.

No. 2 USC vs. No. 4 UCLA, April 19
Crosstown rivals USC and UCLA met in Westwood, with the Trojans coming out on top 11-6. USC's victory gave them the second seed behind Stanford in the MPSF tournament and a 21-1 overall record (5-1 MPSF). UCLA dropped to 24-5 overall (3-3 MPSF). The Trojans have now defeated the Bruins three straight times, the first time that has happened since the 1999 season.

USC took a 3-2 lead after the first period and never looked back. The key was a five-goal streak by the Trojans during the third and fourth quarters. UCLA brought the differential to one with 4:36 left in the third quarter. Costly mistakes by the Bruins enabled the Trojans to use the streak to build an 11-5 lead. UCLA's Emily Donohoe scored with one second left in the game to make it 11-5, USC.

Anni Espar and Kaleigh Gilchrist each had hat tricks for the Trojans, with Monica Vavic netting career goals 100 and 101. Rachel Fattal scored two goals for UCLA. Both goalies–USC's Flora Bolonyai and UCLA's Sami Hill–saved eight shots.

No. 6 UC Irvine vs. No. 10 Long Beach State, April 18
The Black and Blue rivalry continued at Cal State Long Beach's home pool, where they faced UC Irvine. The Anteaters put a damper on the 49ers Senior Night with their 4-3 win. UC Irvine finished their season with an 18-8 record (6-1 Big West); Cal State Long Beach took a 23-6 record into the conference championships (4-3 Big West).

Goals by Hannah Croghan, Kelsey Klatt and Cambria Shockley gave UC Irvine a 3-1 lead after the first period, and that's all they really needed. Melissa Matheson scored for the 49ers. That score lasted through halftime. Croghan and Matheson scored in the third period, making the score 4-2 after the third period. Christina Kotsia scored an exclusion goal in the fourth period. Long Beach State had several chances to tie the game up, but a steal by UC Irvine with 30 seconds left sealed the game.

No. 11 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 6 UC Irvine, April 19
UC Irvine finished their season, and honored their seniors, with a 12-7 non-conference victory over Loyola Marymount. That gave the Anteaters a 19-8 overall record. Loyola Marymount fell to 17-12 overall.

UCI scored the first four goals of the game, taking a 4-2 lead after the first period. The Anteaters collected four more goals in the second quarter. They held the Lions to a single goal, extending the UCI lead to 8-3 at the half. That was the difference in the game, as each team put four goals in the net during the second half to bring the final score to 12-7, UC Irvine.

Michaela Pierandozzi and Ambyr Stewart collected hat tricks for UC Irvine, with McKenna Mitchell and Shockley contributing two each. For the Lions, Laura Lopez scored three goals; Alexandra Honny and Bridgette Alvarez each put two in the net.

No. 13 UC San Diego vs. No. 8 San Diego State, April 20
Another crosstown rivalry was renewed at the Aztec Aquaplex, with eighth-ranked San Diego State taking on No. 13 UC San Diego. For the 12th straight year–the entire history of the contest–the Aztecs claimed the Harper Cup after this year's 6-4 triumph over the Tritons. San Diego State's Samantha Voigt was named the most valuable player of the game with one goal, four assists and a steal.

San Diego State used goals by Emily Whalen and Amber Pezzola to go ahead 2-1 after the first period, with Jolene Guiliana scoring a minute and a half after Whalen for UCSD. The second period was scoreless. Goals were exchanged during the third period, with Voigt giving the Aztecs a two-goal advantage with 3:58 to go in the quarter. Back-and-forth scoring took place during the remainder of the game. With 4:23 to go in the game, Bailey Wickliffe's second goal iced the game for San Diego State; the Tritons were unable to connect on several chances.

San Diego State finished the season with a 22-9 overall record, while UC San Diego slipped to 22-13.

CSU Bakersfield vs. No. 9 San Jose State, April 20
The San Jose Spartans celebrated their Senior Day in a big way with a 15-7 takedown of Cal State Bakersfield In the final MPSF game for both teams. San Jose State ends with an 11-10 overall record (1-5 MPSF), and Cal State Bakersfield finished up the season 12-22 (0-6 MPSF).

San Jose State took a 5-1 lead after the first period and never looked back. The Aggies battled back from a 7-1 deficit partway through the second period and scored three goals to bring the differential to 7-4 at the half. Twice in the third quarter, Cal State Bakersfield cut the margin to two (8-6 and 9-7), but the Spartans answered back. The score was 10-7 after three periods of play, then San Jose State turned on the afterburners with 5 unanswered goals for their 15-7 win.

Rae Lekness scored a season-high six goals for the Spartans, with Anna Natalizio adding five. Nicola Barrett was the Aggies' high scorer, claiming a hat trick. Maddie Reardon was particularly effective for San Jose State, stopping 12 shots.

Occidental vs. No. 11 Loyola Marymount, April 20
At the Burns Aquatic Center on Loyola Marymount's campus, the Lions celebrated Senior Day with an 11-1 victory over Occidental College. Loyola Marymount is 18-12 overall on the season (6-1 WWPA).

Loyola Marymount players scored ten unanswered goals before the Tigers' Kelsey Shyba scored with 3:29 in the game for their lone goal. Alexandra Honny was the Lions' leading scorer with five goals, and Jessica Morelos and Morgan Bonk both scored twice. Claire Wright had nine saves for LMU during the contest.

Cal State San Bernardino vs. No. 13 UC San Diego, April 19
The UC San Diego Tritons earned their second eight-game winning streak of the season and–more importantly–got the No. 1 seed at the Western Water Polo Association Conference Tournament with a convincing 15-4 victory over Cal State San Bernardino at the Canyonview Pool. UCSD is 22-12 overall.

UCSD outscored the Coyotes in three out of the four quarters. Jolene Guiliana scored the first goal of the game one minute into the contest. Two goals from Sarah Lizotte and one from Julia Kirkland gave the Tritons a 4-1 lead at the end of the first period. The two teams each scored two goals during the second period (6-3 at the half). UCSD scored a whopping seven goals during the third period. Rachel Brooks and Melissa Bartow chipped in two goals apiece to lead the scoring in the quarter. Two more goals were added by UCSD in the fourth period to make the final score 15-4, UCSD.

San Bernardino's Misty Vu scored two goals for the Coyotes, with Shelby McCliman and Katie Braun each finding the back of the net once.

No. 16 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 14 Cal State Northridge, April 19
Early in the fourth period of the match between Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara, Kelcie Ferreira scored three of her four goals in less than two minutes. That was one of the keys to the Matadors' 13-9 victory over the Gauchos. Before an overflow Senior Day crowd at Matador Pool, Cal State Northridge ended their season with a 21-11 mark (3-4 BWC); UCSB finished 19-12 (2-5 BWC).

In the first period, scores by Jenny Jamison, Lindsy Nelson and Molly Henehan gave Northridge a 3-2 advantage. The Matadors then put five goals in the net to just one for UCSB, making the score 7-4 at halftime. In the third period, the Gauchos–thanks in large part to Kacey Creek's two goals 37 seconds apart–put together a comeback with the score 8-7 with 6:01 left in the quarter. The two teams switched goals, and Jamison's second goal made it 10-8 after the third period. But Ferreira's hat trick in the fourth period 15 7:40, 6:35 and 5:49–with Lauren Martin's goal at 7:23 for the Gauchos–ended the scoring for both teams.

No. 20 Pacific vs. No. 18 UC Davis, April 20
Kathryn Bailey assisted on goals by Carmen Eggert and Hannah Curran in the first two minutes of the overtime period to give 18th-ranked UC Davis a 6-5 win over No. 20 Pacific in the final Big West match for both squads. The Aggies improved to 14-15 overall, while the Tigers fell to 16-13. Both teams finished Big West action with 1-6 records. That gave UC Davis the tiebreaker for the seventh seed in the conference tournament.

Jessica Dunn (UC Davis) and Taylor Adair (Pacific) each scored a goal in the first period. UC Davis took a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but unanswered goals by Elise Martin, Gracie Smith and Brydie Pye gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead at the half. The Aggies erased the deficit with third-quarter goals by Elsie Fullerton and Keelia Houston. Both goals were assisted by Kathryn Bailey. Houston nearly scored with 1.4 seconds remaining in the match but goalie Michele Reiton was able to stop the shot for Pacific.

In the first two minutes of overtime, Bailey picked up two more assists and helped Carmen Eggert and Hannah Curran to put the ball in the net for UC Davis. Martin's second goal for Pacific cut UC Davis' lead in half with 1:24 left in the period. No scoring occurred in the second OT, and UC Davis picked up the overtime victory.

The top 20 teams in women's collegiate water polo all belong to one of four conferences: Big West, CWPA Eastern Championships, Mountain West Sports Federation and Western Water Polo Association. The rankings listed below refer to the team's seedings within the conference.

Big West Conference, April 26-28, Irvine, California
UC Irvine will play host to the Big West Conference Championships. Along with co-champion Hawai'i, the Anteaters have the top two seeds of the tournament. The Rainbow Wahine earned the top seed in just their first year of Big West action. All eight teams in the conference earned bids to the tournament.

First-round action on the first day of the tournament will see No. 1 Hawai'i meet No. 8 Pacific, No. 2 UC Irvine facing No. 7 UC Davis (winner of the tiebreaker over Pacific), No. 3 San Diego State against No. 6 UC Santa Barbara, and No. 4 Long Beach State vs. No. 5 Cal State Northridge.

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Collegiate Water Polo Association, April 26-28, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The 12 teams that make up this year's CWPA Eastern Championships were determined by their placing at either the Southern Division or Eastern Division Championships, which were held April 13-14. The University of Michigan hosts this year's conference tournament.

The top four seeds from those two tournaments–Indiana, Princeton, Hartwick and Michigan–drew byes in the first round. They will meet the winners of the following matches: No. 5 Brown vs. No. 12 Connecticut College, No. 6 Harvard vs. No. 11 Notre Dame College, No. 7 George Washington vs. No. 10 Gannon, and No. 8 Bucknell vs. No. 9 Mercyhurst. These contests will take place in the morning/early afternoon session, with the first found concluding later in the day.

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Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, April 26-28, Berkeley, California
The top five teams in the country–Stanford, USC, Arizona State, UCLA and Calfornia–plus San Jose State and Cal State Bakersfield will take part in this year's tournament. California hosts this year's action.

Stanford, as the top seed, drew the bye. No. 2 USC will meet No. 7 Cal State Bakersfield, No. 3 Arizona State faces No. 6 San Jose State, and No. 4 UCLA takes on No. 5 California. These contests will be held on the 26th, with the final rounds taking place the next two days.

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Western Water Polo Association, April 26-28, Santa Clara, Calfiornia
Thanks to the 15-4 victory over Cal State San Bernardino, UC San Diego enjoyed an unbeaten season in conference action and was awarded the No. 1 seed in the WWPA tournament.

The No. 8 Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes get to meet the top-ranked Tritons in a rematch of last Friday's game as tournament action gets underway. No. 2 Loyola Marymount go up against No. 7 Cal State East Bay, No. 3 Santa Clara, hosts of the tournament, face No. 6 Cal State Monterey Bay, and No. 4 Colorado State duels No. 5 Sonoma State.

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