2020 Swimming World Women’s Water Polo Previews: CWPA Varsity Division III

Three-peat in 2019 for Scott Reed and his Macalester women's water polo team in the CWPA DIII Championships. Photo Courtesy: Macalester Athletics

In years past, teams from the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Division III conference—a collection of ten schools from the East and Midwest divided over two brackets—had no shot at a national championship. The best that Connecticut College, Grove City, Penn State Behrend, Utica, and Washington & Jefferson in the East and Austin, Carthage, Macalester, Monmouth and Wittenberg in the West could aspire to was a CWPA championship, which Macalester—from St. Paul, Minnesota—has captured the past three seasons.

That will change with the advent this spring of a Division III National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship sponsored by the CWPA, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SCIAC) and USA Water Polo. A champion will emerge from a four-team tournament that will include the first and second place finishers from the SCIAC championship as well as two finalists from the 2020 Division III CWPA Championship, to be held in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

[2020 Swimming World Women’s Water Polo Previews: Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference]

According to Ed Haas, Director of Communications for the CWPA, seeding for their conference tournament will be based on team’s respective finish in the East/West brackets. The West gets the overall #1 seed due to Macalester’s win over Austin in the title last year.

One key consideration: the CWPA will play their tournament on April 17-19 and then wait almost a month for the SCIAC participants to be determined. The first-ever DIII Collegiate Women’s Championship will take place May 8-9 at the winner of the SCIAC championship.

Teams are listed in alphabetical order; in the 2020 CWPA preseason poll, Macalester was first, followed by Austin, Monmouth, Carthage, Wittenberg Connecticut and Grove City.

Team Capsules

2020 Women’s Varsity Division III-East

connecticut-camelsLast year Connecticut College went 9-10 overall and 6-2 in conference play, then finished seventh at the CWPA DIII Championships. Sophomores Brooklynn Hayes and Stephania Lopez—a two-time ACWPC All-American—return in 2020 for Head Coach Matt Anderson, as does junior goalie Ashley Ignatowski. In all, the Camels bring back six letter winners while adding freshmen Ali Keenan from Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, Marissa Moreno of Grossmont High School in San Diego and Kyla Drewry from Woodland High School in Prospect, Connecticut.

Key Match Up: Grove City College, March 14, Erie, PA

grove-city-collegeGrove City College recently hired Jocelyn Bernhardt, a 2015 graduate, as head coach. She replaces Alysa Hunt, who earned CWPA DIII Coach of the Year honors for leading the Wolverines to first in the 2019 East Division with an overall 11-8 record and 8-0 in conference play. In order to improve on a fifth-place finish last year in the CWPA DIII tournament, Bernhardt will need to replace Heidi Schmidt, Abby Spicher and Jillian Breckenridge, all of whom graduated last spring. Returning for 2020 are Elizabeth Andrews (64 goals, 26 assists, 37 steals) and Tessa Leatherwood (62 goals, 40 assists, 66 steals).

Key Match Up: Gannon, February 28, Grove City

[Five Questions for Jocelyn Bernhardt, New Grove City Women’s Water Polo Coach]

penn-state-logoPenn State Behrend was 4-21 last season and 0-3 in conference play. Lauren Wood (75 goals, 21 assists, 38 exclusions drawn) was named a 2019 ACWPC All-American; she and Alison McClure (31 goals, 53 steals, 36 exclusions drawn) have graduated. Juniors Carson Hasgood, Angela Laier and Lauren O’Brien will combine with six newcomers on Head Coach Joe Tristan’s squad, including freshman goalie Chloe Dodgen.

Key Match Up: Pomona-Pitzer, March 7, Claremont, CA

utica-logoWith one win in regular season play (1-12) and none (0-8) in conference play, Head Coach Erin Knight of Utica will look to rebuild for 2020. Goalie Courtney Kennedy returns for her senior season, as does attacker Rebecca Merrill and defender Daniela Hannah. Hnyla Sloan (26 goals, 11 assists, 34 steals) graduated; she accounted for more than a third of the Pioneers goals in 2019. Also graduated: Michalyn Winkler, who last season set the school’s all-time saves mark with 686.

Key Match Up: Washington & Jefferson, March 14, Erie, PA

w&j-logoWashington & Jefferson was 4-14 last season and likely looking for redemption for 2020. The Presidents forfeited their last two matches of the 2019 season, as in-game penalties against Head Coach Nikola Malezanov left them without a coach. Sophomore goalie Cecelia Weiss returns, as do Chloe Magyari and Marissa Whitby. All three were named to the CWPA Division III All-Conference squads; Magyari on the first team, with Weiss and Whitby making the second. Four freshmen fill out Malezanov’s roster, including Californians Jullian Curtis from El Camino Real Charter School in Woodland Hills and Megan Deprez of Claremont High School in Claremont.

Key Match Up: Penn State Behrend, February 22, Washington, PA

2020 Women’s Varsity Division III-West


Austin College— with a record of 8-9 overall and 5-3 in conference play—in 2019 the Kangaroos reached the CWPA final in their first season of NCAA varsity play. Head Coach Mark Lawrence has recruited eight freshmen, and his squad now goes an impressive 17 deep. Returners include goalies Ashley Lipe (senior) and Valery Piachonkina (sophomore; played in CWPA final) as well as leading scorers Lexi Wong (42 goals) and Brooke Le (32 goals). Both were ACWPC Division III All-Americans last year. Key recruits for 2020 include a pair of center defenders: Ally DeRado from Villa Park in Orange, California and Sophie Oliver from Langham Creek High School in Houston, Texas.

Key Match Up: Macalester, March 7, Monmouth, IL


Emma Jeronimus returns between the pipes for her senior year at Carthage. Last year, the Lady Red Hawks went 4-15 with a 2-6 record in conference play. There will be many new faces in Kenosha, Wisconsin—including five freshmen—but the most important is new head coach Ryan Castle. After not being renewed at Indiana, Castle made his way north to take the helm of the Lady Hawks from Laura Coffman, who compiled a 41-35 record in four seasons in Carthage. Besides Jeronimus, a familiar face is Maddie Marsh, who chipped in 33 goals—one third of the team’s goals in 2019.

Key Match Up: Lindenwood, April 4, Lebanon, IL

macalaster-logoCara Mullery (31 goals, 26 assists) returns for her final season at Macalester; in her first three season the Scots won three CWPA Division III Championships. So does Oriana Galasso (38 goals, 29 steals, 25 ejections drawn). Head Coach Scott Reed will need to replace goalie Courtney Overland, who backstopped the Scots’ three titles, and Lucille Moran (45 goals, 26 assists, four-time All-CWPA first team and two-time CWPA DIII Player of the Year)—both graduated. Sophomore Honor Kalala will take over netminding duties, while four freshmen, including Alex Westrick from Ashland High School in Ashland, Oregon and Eleanor Michaud from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Evanston, Illinois will look to replace one of the greatest players in program history.

Key Match Up: Cal Lutheran, March 18, Thousand Oaks, CA

[On The Record with Scott Reed, Macalester Women’s Water Polo Coach]

monmouth-scotsMonmouth went 7-11 overall in 2019—4-4 in conference play—and finished third in the CWPA Division III Championships, the program’s highest finish ever. For 2020, the Fighting Scots lose Becca Dabrowski (262 goals), the program’s all-time leading scorer who pumped in 111 scores last season, half of Monmouth’s total, and contributed a team-high 54 steals. Natalie Garcia (58 saves, 7.81 GAA) will likely be the top netminder for Head Coach Peter Ollis, with freshman Kayle Heumann a possible option. Heumann is one of six freshmen on the Scots roster; they will combine with returners Skylar Rap (26 goals, 42 assists) and Marissa Logan (23 goals, 22 assists).

Key Match Up: Austin, March 29, St. Paul, MN

Wittenberg-logoIn their inaugural season in DIII play, Wittenberg finished a respectable 8-13, with a 4-7 conference record. At the CWPA Championships, the Tigers finished sixth behind the strong play of senior Savanah Phillips (First team All-CWPA) sophomore Emma Menjivar and freshman Kailey Cordova. Phillips is now graduated, so Head Coach Sivan Pardon has recruited three freshmen: Kailey Cordova of Schaumburg High School in Schaumburg Illinois, Meghan Lythgoe of Mason High School and Savannah Morgenroth-Cross of Kings High School, both in Mason, Ohio.

Key Match Up: Occidental, March 13, Los Angeles, CA


Unlike the SCIAC, where there is a clear pecking order of teams, the CWPA DIII teams are reliant on talent year-to year. A good goalie or a star offensive player can have far more impact on the typically small rosters that these teams employ. This imbalance plays out in the ranking of East versus West. The western bracket teams are all higher-ranked than the East, with an average difference of two extra players per roster for the West.

The Scots from Macalester—not to be confused with the Fighting Scots from Monmouth—buck this trend. With a roster of 11, they are favored to win a fourth-straight title. They’ll have to do it without Moran, one of the top players in program history.

The biggest threat to Macalester’s dominance comes from within their own division, as a growing Austin program, with a highly competitive non-conference schedule, is likely to be improved from their first year of play, when the Kangaroos dropped all three matches against the eventual CWPA champions.

The goal is to win the CWPA, but getting to the final will be enough to qualify for the nation championship tournament. This leaves openings for Monmouth in the West and Connecticut and Grove City in the East. The wild card is the impact of a new coach in Carthage. Castle, an experienced leader who built a successful program at DI Indiana, inherits an experienced core of four upper classmen, including a senior goalie in Jeronimus, Castle may be able to tip the balance of power in the the Lady Red Hawks’ conference and perhaps lead Carthage, which will host the CWPA championships, to the new national DIII tournament.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Gloria Mielke

    Women’s water polo has come a long way—- !

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