Triton Invitational in San Diego Promises to Roil the CWPA Top 25

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Harvard is one of six unbeaten teams in this week's CWPA Top-25. Photo Courtesy: Jeanie Wahl

As the 2020 women’s water polo season enters week four of competition, prepare for rankings in the latest Collegiate Water Polo Association Top 25 varsity poll to be scrambled. This is because the Triton Invitational—hosted by UC San Diego—is the first major women’s tournament of the season. 16 teams will descend on La Jolla this weekend; 13 of them are ranked, and three of the nation’s top five teams—USC, UCLA and UC Irvine–will jostle to emerge unscathed after four matches over two days.

The Trojans have owned this event recently, with six straight titles. One factor in this string of success is that Stanford—which in that time has won four titles to the Trojans two—has not competed in the Triton Invite in two decades. This decision is likely because it detracts from preparation for the other important tournament of the women’s season; the Barbara Kalbus Invitational, which will take place from February 21-23 at UC Irvine.

#1 USC (3-0); a win last weekend over Loyola Marymount is a precursor to the coming weekend and the Triton Invitational, hosted by UC San Diego. The Trojans will face four foes in La Jolla, only one of which is confirmed (Villanova). Sunday should be a good test for Marko Pintaric’s team as seven from the Top Ten will look to prevent USC from winning yet another Triton title. The last time USC lost in La Jolla? 2000, the last appearance by the Cardinal.

#2 Stanford (7-0); some early returns for the Cardinal are: Sarah Klass with 23 goals, Hannah Shabb and Madison Stamen with 12 each, and Thea Walsh has 15 saves over two games. The closest anyone’s come to beating the defending champs was UC Irvine two weeks ago; last weekend Cal and Michigan both failed in their attempts. The Cardinal are off until next week so they can only move up. An interesting fact; since 2008 Stanford is 113-10 at Avery Aquatic Center.

#3 UCLA (10-1); now on a nine-match win streak, the Bruins’ one stumble on their season’s first day seems like a distant memory. Wins last week against San Jose State and Fresno State continued UCLA’s winning ways with a caveat; 10 goals scored by both the Spartans and the Bulldogs against a Bruin defense anchored by goalies Jahmea Bent, Georgia Phillips and Quinn Winter. The Triton Invite will be a better test, starting with Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday. Freshman Abbi Hill has been a powerhouse in her first action in Westwood—29 goals, good for tops in the MPSF.

#4 Hawai’i (8-0); the Rainbow Wahine have looked good so far, outscoring opponents by 100 goals (134-34). Only one contest has been close, a 9-7 win over Arizona State last weekend in Tempe. After two weeks off, it’s a trip to UC Irvine for the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. Tara Prentice, with 25 goals, is off to a fast start in her last year in Irvine.

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CSUN’s Tori Wilson is leading the Matadors. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

#5 UC Irvine (6-2); after two wins last Saturday against Top-25 opponents San Jose State and Fresno State, the Anteaters travel to San Diego for the Triton Invitational and on opening match against Santa Clara.

#6 Cal-Berkeley (6-4); the sluggish start for the Golden Bear women mirrors that for their men—who missed NCAAs last season. In fairness, Head Coach Coralie Simmons has faced only ranked opponents so far this season. Matches against Pacific this Saturday and UC Davis next may give the Golden Bears momentum going into the Kalbus Invite.

#7 UC San Diego (5-1); this weekend is a moment to shine at home for the Triton, hosting the nation’s top teams. UCSD—off to its best start since 2014—opens up Saturday against Marist.

#8 Arizona State (6-1); a fast start for the Sun Devils with a lone loss last week to Hawai’i looks good for Head Coach Todd Clapper; Borbala Kekesi (22 goals) and Itzahiana Baca (50 saves) lead the way into La Jolla for the Triton Invite, where ASU will open against California State University-Northridge (CSUN)

#9 (T) UC Santa Barbara (6-3); two narrow losses to Michigan have marred an otherwise strong start for the Gauchos; the Triton Invite beckons Saturday and a match up against San Diego State.

#9 (T) Michigan (5-6); an unsightly three-match losing streak—fashioned last weekend at the Cal Cup by losses to Cal, Stanford and UC Davis—means Head Coach Marcelo Leonardi has to use the next two weeks to re-group for the Kalbus Invite.

#9 (T) UC Davis (4-3); an 11-6 win over Michigan last weekend—after exhibition losses to Cal and Stanford—buoyed Aggie spirits going into a match Saturday against Indiana at UC San Diego.

#12 Long Beach State (5-0); a fast start for the 49ers is led by Sarah Barker and Elena Kotanchyan; Saturday is a match against Loyola Marymount at the Triton Invite; it will be challenging for LBS to remain unbeaten through this weekend.

Wagner Women's Water Polo vs Indiana at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, MI on Jan. 25, 2020.

Wagner’s Sofia Diaz Alvarez has 25 goals and 17 steals. Photo Courtesy: Dianna Oatridge

#13 Fresno State (2-6); tough start for Head Coach Natalie Benson’s squad but that’s what happens when you schedule four of the top five teams in the country in your first eight matches, including UCLA and UCI last weekend. A match Friday against cross-town rival Fresno Pacific will provide some relief.

#14 San Jose State (3-7); a signature win two weeks ago against Cal led to four straight losses, including to Long Beach State, UCLA and UCI last weekend. A week off for the Spartans before a home match against UC Davis.

#15 Harvard (4-0); two wins last weekend at the Bruno Classic against Whittier and Wagner; four matches this weekend at the Bison Invitational at Bucknell including Wagner again, a pair of St. Francis’—Brooklyn and Pennsylvania—and new program Long Island University.

#16 Loyola Marymount (3-3); an expected loss to USC and a winnable game against Long Beach State puts the Lions on a mini-slide going into a rematch against the 49ers Saturday at the Triton Invitational.

#17 (T) Pacific (2-3); things don’t get easier for the Tigers; a match Saturday against Cal, thank off next week to Davis for contests against Fresno State, UC Davis and #2 Stanford at the Aggie Invite.

#17 (T) Princeton (2-2); a predictable split last weekend in Tempe, Arizona, with wins over Cal State East Bay and Sonoma State and losses to Hawai’i and host Arizona State. After an off weekend, the Tigers will host six teams at home.

#19 Indiana (2-2); the Hoosiers and Taylor Dodson, their new coach, travel to La Jolla for a match against UC Davis riding a two-match win streak and a wave of confidence which may crest at the Triton Invitational.

[On The Record with Taylor Dodson, Indiana Head Women’s Water Polo Coach]

#20 Wagner (3-4); the Seahawks performance at last week’s Bruno Classic was mixed; wins over St. Francis University and host Brown and a one-goal loss to Harvard. Up next: four matches at the Bison Invite—including a rematch against the Crimson. Leading the way so far for Wagner is sophomore Sofia Diaz Alvarez (24 goals, 16 assists, 17 steals)

#21 San Diego State (1-1); The Aztecs have been off for two weeks and come back to competition in their backyard at the Triton Invitational. They’ll play four matches starting with a contest against UC Santa Barbara Saturday.

#22 CSUN (6-2); Tori Wilson has been a one woman wrecking crew so far in 2020; 12 goals, 12 assists, 17 steals and 11 exclusions drawn—all (except the exclusions) lead the Matadors. She’ll need to keep up her stellar play as CSUN travels south for the Triton Invite and an opening round match against Arizona State on Saturday.

#23 Bucknell (4-0); the Bison got off to a blazing start behind Paige Furano, who hammered the opposition at the Bruno Classic for 22 goals in four matches. On tap this weekend at their own tournament: matches against Salem, St. Francis Brooklyn and Wagner. If Furano stays hot, the Bison could keep their record unblemished.

#24 Marist (1-8); a win over Claremont-Mudd-Scrips last weekend in Providence put the Red Foxes in the win column for the first time in 2020. A loss to Bucknell at the Bruno Classic sends Marist off to the Triton Invite on a sour note and a tough match-up with host UC San Diego.

#25 (T) Azusa Pacific (2-6); the Cougars could not hold an early lead against Sonoma State, meaning three losses in four games at the Arizona State Cross Conference Challenge. After a week off Hawai’i comes to Glendora, California for a match on February 19.

#25 (T) Cal Baptist (2-2); two matches Friday against Ottawa and Redlands offer the Lancers a chance to win and stay in the Top 25 for another week.

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