Women’s Water Polo DIII Report: Focus on CWPA Top Ten

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Whittier's Grace Arnsparger is one of two freshmen on the Poets veteran roster. Photo Courtesy: Patrick Hughes Jr.

Given the new national championship format in place for DIII women’s water polo programs—on May 9 and 10 four teams will compete for the DIII Collegiate National Women’s Water Polo Championship, sponsored by the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA), the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and US Water Polo—Swimming World is tracking the Top Ten in the CWPA’s weekly polls.

[SW Polo Roundtable With Jen Dubow, John Abdou & Dan Sharadin On Biggest Issues Facing The Sport]

USA Water Polo logo DIII National Championship

Not surprising, given the strength of their respective conferences, the nation’s top seven programs are all members of the SCIAC. In fact, only two teams from outside of California—#8 Macalester in Minnesota and #10 Austin in Texas and—cracked the top ten. And, therein lies the challenge. The new national format will ideally raise the level across the country. But, probably not as quickly as teams outside of the West Coast would like.

Regardless, the DIII Collegiate Championship will include the top two teams from the SCIAC tournament—to be held from May 1 – 3—and the finalists from the CWPA DIII Championship, April 17-19 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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

#1 Cal Lutheran (5-3; 1-0 SCIAC); the Regals are defending SCIAC champions, and have enjoyed a good start to their season, with a win against LIU, a Division I school, and two victories over Fresno Pacific, a DII school. Lexi Rond had a stellar weekend at the annual Tina Finali Memorial Tournament, notching 17 goals, 11 drawn ejections, one assist and three steals as the Regals went 4-1 in their own tournament, including a win over conference rival Chapman.

#2 Pomona-Pitzer (3-6; 1-0 SCIAC); a losing record in this instance is deceptive. The Sage Hens have played seven DI opponents and lost to six of them. Their only victory was over Villanova; they also beat Ottawa, a first-year program competing in NAIA, and SCIAC opponent Redlands. Lucie Abele, Paulina Correa and Jessie Nesbit providing scoring, while Haley Crabtree has been steady in the Pomona-Pitzer goal.

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The Athena’s Aracelia Aldrete. Photo Courtesy: Patrick Hughes, Jr.

#3 Whittier (4-4); with wins against LIU as well as St. Francis University—both DI programs—and Toronto and Ottawa, the Poets have gotten scoring from expected places, specifically Teresa Marchetti and Sawyer Bellville, their two All-SCIAC first teamers from 2019. Lauren Tapia has played the majority of minutes in the Whittier cage; the Poets will play their first conference game on Wednesday against Chapman.

#4 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (3-4; 1-0 SCIAC); with the exception of a 10-1 loss to #10 UC San Diego, the Athenas have been competitive in every match this season. The scoring has been evenly spread around; five CMS players have six goals and one—Aracelia Aldrete—has seven. A goals-against average of 7.29 looks good; a match with Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday will say a lot about the Athena’s prospects to compete for a SCIAC title in 2020.

[On The Record with Greg Lonzo, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Coach]

#5 La Verne (5-3); Jassmine Kezman has gotten off to a fast start for the Leopards, with 20 goals. The reigning SCIAC Player of the Year is getting help from freshman Nancy Trinh, who had four steals in a 22-9 win over Carthage, then six scores in a 19-8 win over host Macalester in St. Paul. Perhaps more significant for the SCIAC member, La Verne took two matches from the Scots, who are the four-time reigning CWPA DIII champs and are favored for a fifth title. This is a match-up that may be repeated in May at the first-ever DIII Collegiate National Women’s Water Polo Championship.

#6 Redlands (3-4; 1-1 SCIAC); the Bulldogs have split their first two conference games, winning 15-2 over hapless Caltech, then dropping a 14-9 decision to Pomona-Pitzer. Hunter Olivier and Holly Kvanvig have provided offense; goalies Erin Ross and Tori Zielinski have split time in the Redlands cage.

#7 Chapman (1-8; 0-1 SCIAC); the one positive about an ugly start for the Panthers is that they only have one loss in conference play—a one-goal decision against reigning SCIAC champs Cal Lutheran. Their other losses are against DI schools—two of which are ranked—and a couple of DII. A game against Whittier this Wednesday will be key in illustrating just how close Chapman is to the top of their conference.

#8 Macalester (2-2); the Scots hosted their season opening tournament, and it was a good test about how they will fare against CWPA DIII opponents as well as a strong SCIAC squad. Wins against Carthage and Monmouth extend a run of 34-straight against conference foes; the last time Macalester lost to a CWPA DIII rival was three years ago, when Carthage beat them. Equally telling; blowout losses to a La Verne squad that had already played four matches coming into St. Paul. The goal is to narrow the gap between the top CWPA team and the SCIAC.

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

#9 Occidental (0-1); the Tigers have a new home for water polo, but are still waiting to christen the De Mandel Aquatic Center with actual competition. Their first women’s matches of 2020 were in the old Taylor pool—so it must be incredibly frustrating to all on the Occidental campus that a gem of a facility remains out of reach… for now. What is MORE tangible is that CalTech comes to Los Angeles on Wednesday—and that means a win for the Tigers.

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Ready for action… soon?! Photo Courtesy: Oxy Athletics

#10 Austin (0-9); another unsightly record in the nation’s Top-Ten. It’s questionable what’s more revealing: and Occidental team at #9 that in the past four years has only beaten one SCIAC foe—Caltech, which has never won a conference game in a decade of trying? Or, Austin, which has struggled mightily to get untracked in a season with great expectations. The reality for the Kangaroos is that they only have to beat CWPA DIII foes to get to the national championship; they haven’t played any conference rivals yet, and won’t until this Saturday, with matches against Macalester and Monmouth. They have taken on four DI and four DII opponents; this will likely serve them in good stead as the season wears on.

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

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