With Win at 2020 Kalbus Invitational, USC Upsets CWPA Top-25 Women’s Water Polo Rankings

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The Trojans—and goalie Holly Parker—ride to another Kalbus title on Sunday in Irvine. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

This is the Barbara Kalbus Invitational edition of the Collegiate Water Polo Association Top-25 poll. Swimming World includes final results from the just-completed tournament in UC Irvine. As the biggest non-conference tournament in the women’s season—with all of the nation’s top ten teams included and 16 of the top 20—the Kalbus Invite is the best early season measure of which teams will contend for a national championship. And, which teams will struggle to get to NCAAs in May.

The 2020 final, held at UC Irvine, was the same as last year’s and the one before that, with USC and Stanford meeting. The result was not exactly the same; USC won but it was not a competitive match, as the final score was 10-5. More on that below; the CWPA Top-25 poll will have a new #1 when it is released on Wednesday.

All results from the 2020 Barbara Kalbus Invitational on the UC Irvine campus can be found here.

#1 Stanford (12-1); the Cardinal have gone unbeaten prior to the last four UC Irvine Invitational tournaments; in three of those years they’ve also been the top team in the polls going in. The exception was last year, when USC entered as #1 and beat Stanford in the final. Which is what happened again, thought the issue for Head Coach John Tanner is that his team not only lost big to the Trojans—at one point they were down 9-2—the Cardinal struggled against San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara and Hawai’i.

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USC’s Marko Pintaric. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

#2 UCLA (17-2); coming off a big win two weeks ago against USC and with 13-straight wins coming into Irvine, the Bruins were the hottest team in the country—until the Trojans stopped them 9-7 in the semis. UCLA recovered to beat a tough Hawai’i squad 10-5 for third place. That win over the Trojans was the first by an Adam Wright-coached women’s team over his school’s arch-rival. They’ll have to wait until April 18 for another shot at an SC win.

#3 Hawai’i (11-2); this weekend was a great early test for Head Coach Maureen Cole’s team, which has national title aspirations. They did not disappoint; despite a 10-5 loss to UCLA in the third-place match, the Rainbow Wahine equaled the highest-ever finish in program history, last, accomplished in 2018. In the semifinals they faced Stanford—a tall order, because the Hawai’i had lost all 35 previous contests. A 12-9 loss was number 36 in a row but Cole’s team was within a goal early in the fourth period before the Cardinal pulled away.

#4 USC (11-1); the Trojans rebounded nicely from their first loss of the season, winning a second-straight Kalbus Invite while getting revenge on the Bruins, their arch-rivals, The biggest take-away from this weekend is that Head Coach Marko Pinaric has enough offense to beat anyone in the country—and goalie Holly Parker, a red-shirt junior, appears talented enough to hold any lead.

5 Arizona State (11-4); the Sun Devils continued their best start since 2017, winning two of four matches at the Kalbus. That ASU finished sixth after dropping a 12-7 decision to Host UCI—a match in which the Sun Devils trailed by only two at the half—doesn’t dampen what could be a very strong season for Head Coach Todd Clapper’s team.

#6 UC Irvine (12-5); so far in 2020 the Kalbus hosts suffered losses to MPSF stalwarts Stanford, USC (twice). Cal and Arizona State, with three of those defeats by one goal and two by three goals. The Anteaters’ fifth place finish at their own invite is their best outcome since 2015, when they also finished fifth. The Big West looks to be a two-horse race, with Hawai’i and UCI fighting for the automatic NCAA bid—as they have four times since 2013.

#7 Cal-Berkeley (11-5); Head Coach Coralie Simmons was looking to make it three straight wins this season over Michigan and her mentor Marcelo Leonardi—but the Wolverines had other ideas and pulled off the (mild) upset in the opening day of Kalbus play. Cal won the next three to finish ninth, but it’s still one of the worst results for the Golden Bears at this tournament.

#8 UC San Diego (11-5); the Tritons have been one of this season’s surprise teams with wins over two teams in the Top Ten already this season. Head Coach Brad Kreutzkamp has to feel satisfied about a 10th place finish in Irvine, if only because the Tritons rallied from a three-goal deficit in the fourth period to top San Diego State, UCSD’s sixth-straight over its local rival.

#9 UC Santa Barbara (9-8); since a stunning season-opening win against UCLA, UCSB has gone a pedestrian 8-8, including three-straight losses in Irvine this weekend. The trend on offense is not great for the Gauchos; they’ve scored less than six goals a game in all their 2020 losses—and haven’t registered double-digits in goals scored since a win against Wagner nine matches ago.

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Cal’s Coralie Simmons and Michigan’s Marcelo Leonardi. Photo Courtesy: Michigan Athletics

#10 Michigan (7-8); in 2019 Big Blue averaged 11.2 goals a game. So far in 2020, their average—against top competition—is around eight goals a game. The Kalbus Invite—two wins and two losses, including an 11-10 overtime win against Cal—proved one trend for the Wolverines in 2020; they sure can defend. They hea=ld UCLA to 7 goals and capped their weekend off with a 5-4 victory over UC Santa Barbara. In goal, Heidi Ritner racked up 43 saves on the weekend while breaking Betsey Armstrong’s all-time program record for wins with her 86th victory against the Gauchos.

#11 Fresno State (8-7); the Bulldogs were one of the few top teams to skip the UCA event; instead they hosted a round-robin tournament against Azusa Pacific, Cal Luthern and Fresno Pacific—all wins—which stretched FSU’s winning streak to five. It’s an opportunity for Head Coach Natalie Benson’s squad to pick up some wins—none of these opponents are ranked—but it is curious that a program on the rise would miss a useful measuring tournament like the Kalbus.

#12 Long Beach State (8-5); it was a tough weekend for the 49ers, who won once against a Pacific program on an extended losing streak. A loss to UC Irvine might have been expected; what wasn’t was defeats to LMU and San Diego State—two lower ranked programs.

#13 San Jose State (5-10); it’s been an interesting start for new Spartan coach Beth Harberts. Her team has already registered a signature win over Cal, and played UC Irvine and Long Beach State tough three weeks ago. This weekend in Irvine, SJSU won narrowly over UC Davis in overtime—then dropped nail-bitters against Arizona State, Loyola Marymont and UC San Diego.

#14 Indiana (6-5); as expected, after a tough start to their season—with two weekends of play on the road in California and Michigan—the Hoosiers caught a break with three matches against lesser opponents last weekend and then an off weekend by skipping the Kalbus Invite. They will get back to California next weekend for four winnable matches against lesser opponents and then another tournament at home the first weekend in March.

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Bruin (blue cap) and Bulldog class earlier in the season. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

#15 UC Davis (8-11); three narrow losses—including an overtime loss to San Diego State—made this a forgettable Kalbus tournament for the Aggies. Only a 12-9 win over hapless Pacific stopped this from being a total washout.

#16 Loyola Marymount (8-6); a 13-10 overtime win against San Jose State put the Lions 11th place at Kalbus, LMU’s second win over a higher-ranked team during the weekend. They also beat Long Beach State 11-8 on Saturday. The Golden Coast Conference is starting to look like a race between the Lions and the Bulldogs, with San Diego State and Pacific losing ground.

#17 Harvard University (10-1); the Crimson have had three weekends between a sweep at Bucknell on February 15 and 16 and their own invitational, which will take place March 7 and 8. Tough opponents await Head Coach Ted Minnis’ squad on the West Coast, where they’ll fly mid-March for matches against CSUN,  Hawai’i, Long Beach State and UC San Diego.

#18 Wagner (11-5; 2-0 MAAC); as they have for the past six years, the Seahawks took care of business with their only rival in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, beating Marist for the 12th straight time. They also beat La Salle, a preseason pick for MAAC playoffs. As of now, no one in the conference can beat Wagner in the water, a streak 59 matches long.

#19 Princeton (6-3); like their Ivy rivals, the Tigers took the weekend off—after beating MAAC teams Iona and La Salle. Next week will see Head Coach Derek Ellingson’s team with a non-conference match against Villanova before they open conference play against CWPA foe George Washington.

#20 California State University-Northridge (12-4); the Matadors have continued to feast on non-conference foes, beating University of Toronto and DIII Chapman. The real action begins this Friday with a showdown against UC San Diego at Northridge.

#21 Pacific (2-11); the Tigers’ losing streak has now reached ten-straight. It’s the worst streak that Head Coach James Graham has endured in Stockton since he arrived in 2013. Four losses at the Kalbus will do nothing for Pacific’s ranking; more important is how they will fare in GCC play, which begins next week against Azusa Pacific.

#22 San Diego State (6-8); in the cup half full approach, the Aztecs got a big wins over UC Davis and Long Beach State—the latter gave them a 13th place finish at the Kalbus. The cup half empty view is that SDSU couldn’t hold a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter against rival UCSD—and their goalie made a total of three saves for the match.

[San Diego State’s Carin Crawford, St. Francis Brooklyn’s Alana Burgess: If You Can See Her You Can Be Her]

#23 Bucknell (10-1); the Bison have run roughshod over subpar competition thus far; they’ve split the two games they’ve played against ranked opponents, and collected seven of their 10 wins over DII or DIII opponents. Next weekend in Ann Arbor Bucknell will face the host Wolverines and Long Beach State – as well as Iona and St Francis University.

#24 Marist (4-11); another loss—albeit by a reasonable two goals—suggest that the gap between the Red Foxes and six-time MAAC champs Wagner is not narrowing. They will play each other again on April 18 at Brown; perhaps that will be a better indicator of how close Marist is to toppling the mighty Seahawks.

#25 California Baptist (6-3); the Lancers were off this weekend, with only an exhibition against University of Toronto between a win against St. Francis U in Indiana on February 16 and a four tough matches against DII foes at the Tina Finali Invitational in Thousand Oaks this weekend.

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