UC Irvine, Wagner Open 2018 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament With Wins

Uytengsu Aquatics Center, site of the 2018 NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship. Photo Courtesy: John McGillen/USC Athletics

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

The 2018 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Tournament officially opened yesterday at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on the University of Southern California campus. The first game of the tournament was all that polo fans could have wanted, as Wagner, representing the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), scored a 10-7 OT victory over UC San Diego, champions of the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA). The two teams traded goals throughout 32 minutes of regulation, but the underdog Seahawks came out ahead in extra time. Daisy Nankervis broke the tie half-way through the first extra period to give Wagner a lead they would not relinquish. With 41 seconds remaining in the period, Erica Hardy picked up her only goal of the game, with the assist to Nankervis, beating Triton goalie Reilly Gallagher.

A goal by Jacqui Sjogren with a minute left in the second OT period finished off UC San Diego and gave Wagner back-to-back NCAA play-in wins; last year the Seahawks beat the Tritons 6-5 for their school’s first-ever NCAA victory in any sport. Leading the way for Head Coach Chris Radmonvich’s squad were Kristy Donkin with three goals and Kimberly Watson with two.

The Tritons got three goals from Grace Pevehouse and two from Chanel Schilling but couldn’t capitalize on a 14-3 advantage in power-play opportunities, converting on just three chances.

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Kimberly Watson, MAAC 2018 Offensive Player of the Year. Photo Courtesy: Wagner Athletics

With the win, Wagner (25-6) extends its winning streak to 17, but making it 18 straight presents a near impossible task. On Friday at 3 p.m. (EST) the Seahawks (26-5) will square off against top-seed USC (23-1), a team they have never faced before. With 304 goals scored on the season, the host Trojans, representing the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), boast one of the nation’s best offenses. Anchored by MPSF Player of the Year, goalie Amanda Longan, Head Coach Jovan Vavic’s squad allows a paltry 4.83 goals per game.

In Tuesday’s other play-in match, UC Irvine of the Big West Conference extended its win streak to six matches, besting Pomona-Pitzer, champs of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) by 16-2. The Anteaters broke out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, which ballooned to 9-1 by intermission. Tara Prentice and Allie Loomis contributed three scores each, while Keana Eldridge and Natalie Seidemann notched two goals apiece.

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Allie Loomis. Photo Courtesy: UC Irvine Athletics

Nothing went well for the Sagehens, , as the Head Coach Dan Klatt’s team shot a blistering 16 of 28 against goalies Morgan Stockham and Haley Crabtree. Natalie Hill and Kyla Pickell each registered a lone goal.

The win sets up an intriguing match-up at 6:30 p.m. (EST) Friday between UC Irvine (15-13) and #2 seed Stanford (18-3). John Tanner’s squad already owns two wins this season over the Anteaters. But the Cardinal will have to contend with a UC Irving squad playing its best polo of the season, having knocked off Big West regular season champs Hawai’i in the conference tournament final.

In Friday’s other quarterfinals action, at 8:15 p.m. (EST) #3 seed Cal (19-5) will face Michigan (32-8), the representative from the Collegiate Water Polo Association conference (CWPA). Cal owns a narrow one-goal win over the Wolverines back in early February. #4 seed UCLA (22-7) will square off against Pacific (18-7) at 4:45 p.m. (EST); the Bruins come in on a rare two-game losing streak but can draw confidence from two earlier wins over the Tigers.

All matches of the 2018 national championship are available via live stream at NCAA.com.

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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