Youth Is Served! UCLA Vaults to No. 1 in CWPA Women’s Varsity Poll

Anna Pearson. Minette Rubin / UCLA Athletics

The upcoming Olympics, with national team players at home preparing for the Paris Games, is playing havoc with the weekly water polo polls. Hawai’i, No. 2 this week, is at its highest ranking ever, as is Fresno State at No. 3. USC, last week’s No. 1, is sixth; two weeks ago, Stanford was at No. 7.

CWPA Week 3 Women’s Varsity Poll

Who’s on top? Head Coach Adam Wright’s UCLA squad features 11 freshmen and seven sophomores. The youthful Bruins—led in scoring by sophomore Anna Pearson (17 goals) and freshman Panni Szegedi (13)—took wins this weekend from Hawai’i and Fresno State—the latter a 10-8 win Sunday to give UCLA’s its first Triton Invitational crown since 2020.

The annual Barbara Kalbus Invitational, to be held February 23 – 25 at UC Irvine, might again scramble the polls as the nation’s top teams compete in the season’s best non-conference tournament.

1) UCLA (8-0; 0-0 MPSF); With four wins in San Diego, the Bruins showed who’s boss—for now. At the Kalbus Invitational Stanford, USC and Cal will look to bring down their MPSF rival.


Minette Rubin / UCLA Athletics

2) Hawai’i (8-1; 0-0 Big West); The Rainbow Wahine’s highest-ever ranking in the CWPA poll is well earned; the only blemish on their record was an overtime loss Saturday to UCLA. Sunday’s 10-6 win over USC not only gave Hawai’i third place at the Triton Invitational, it also snapped a 27-match losing streak to the Trojans.

3) Fresno State (8-3; 0-0 GCC); By virtue of a second-place finish in San Diego, the Bulldogs moved up to the program’s highest-ever ranking. It’s been a fantastic season-opening run for coach Natalie Benson’s squad; program-first wins over Stanford and USC, both when they were the nation’s No.  1 team. The only question mark is a 10-7 loss Friday to GCC rival Loyola Marymount.

4) Stanford (6-2; 0-0 MPSF); “I told you so” comes to mind now that the Cardinal are rising up the polls. Five straight wins—including a win last weekend vs. Cal—means Stanford is primed for a third-straight NCAA title.

5) Cal (5-1; 0-0 MPSF); The Golden Bears stumbled against Stanford, dropping an overtime decision to the host Cardinal. UC-Davis is up next week away as a tune-up for the Kalbus Invitational.

6) USC (4-2; 0-0 MPSF); A rare stumble by the Trojans; the last time USC lost two matches in a row was 2015 when UCLA and Stanford beat them in the MPSF tournament.

7) Arizona State (7-1; 0-0 MPSF); A 13-8 loss to UCLA last Saturday relegated the Sun Devils to the fifth-place match in San Diego, which they captured with a win over Michigan. This weekend, coach Petra Pardi welcomes four visitors— UC Santa Barbara, Marist, San Jose State and Ottawa-Arizona—to Tempe.

8 (T) Michigan (6-5; 0-0 CWPA); The Wolverines split their matches in San Diego, including a big win over UC-Irvine. A weekend off before a local tournament at Indiana—where they will not face the host Hoosiers.

8 (T) Princeton (1-2; 0-0 CWPA); Slow start for the Tigers; they’ll host Villanova this week and then Mount St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Siena, Wagner and Ivy rival Harvard come to Princeton next weekend.

8 (T) UC-Irvine (4-4; 0-0 Big West); A seventh place finish in San Diego might disappoint Anteater fans. Before UCI hosts the nation’s best, they’ll face UCLA this weekend and USC next.


Loyola Marymount Athletics

11) Loyola Marymount (9-2; 0-0 GCC); The Lions stayed put at No. 11 but this placement doesn’t acknowledge a big win this weekend over Fresno State—as well as LMU’s best start since the 2011 season, when they went 29-6 and just missed NCAAs.

12 (T) UC-Santa Barbara (7-3; 0-0 Big West); A split at the Triton included a one-goal win in the 11th place game against host UC-San Diego. Arizona State is up this weekend at the ASU Invitational.

12 (T) Long Beach State (4-3; 0-0 Big West); The Beach returns to San Diego this weekend for two matches at San Diego State. A 2-2 record and a final day loss at the Triton Invitational landed LSB in tenth place.

14 (T) UC-San Diego (6-4; 0-0 Big West); Three defeats in their own tournament—included one-goal losses to Arizona State and UC Santa Barbara at the beginning and end of their weekend—dropped the Tritons out of the Top 10.

14 (T) UC-Davis (1-9; 0-0 Big West); A tournament opening win over The Beach broke a winless season but three losses extended the Aggies painfully slow start. UC-Davis does not catch a break this weekend, opening its own invitational against Stanford.

14 (T) Indiana (8-0; 0-0 MPSF); The Hoosiers sizzling start extended into the Bruno Classic in Providence, where they swept three East Coast opponents and D-III Pomona Pitzer. That looks great on paper but it won’t make a difference against MPSF rivals. Three more wins this weekend at the Indiana Classic—opponents are Cal Baptist, Iona. Salem and St. Francis PA—will send coach Taylor McInerney’s team into next weekend’s Kalbus Invitational undefeated.

17) Pacific (2-2; 0-0 GCC); A season-opening split at Stanford included losses to Cal and the Host Cardinal and wins over Cal State East Bay and Biola. Not a lot to go on to gauge the Tigers’ early-season health but a match Sunday against UC-Davis may provide better information.

18) Wagner (6-2; 0-0 MAAC); All Seahawks wins are against lower-ranked opponents—in a small sample—including a 4-0 weekend at the Bruno Classic. The next time coach Josh Hower’s team faces a higher-ranked foe is March 28 when they travel to play Princeton. Not a formula for success come NCAA time but Wagner has to qualify first, which until last season’s MAAC final was almost automatic.

19 (T) Harvard (2-2; 0-0 CWPA): The telling match in the Crimson’s season-opening weekend was a 12-7 loss to Wagner. Harvard travels to Princeton next weekend for a match with the host Tigers, a part of a three-match set in the Princeton Invitational.

19 (T) San Jose State (1-3; 0-0 MPSF); That the SJSU women play in the MPSF is ironic; the Spartan men’s revival in 2016 broke up the MPSF and enabled a GCC men’s conference to (briefly) provide a counterweight to the Big Four of Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC. This weekend the Spartans travel to Tempe for the ASU Invitational.

More Water Polo Coverage

NOTABLE Water Polo teams:

Biola (3-4; 0-0 WWPA); The plucky Eagles keep scheduling the NCAA’s best. Stanford last weekend (20-4 loss) and the Kalbus Invitational later this month.

Pomona-Pitzer (3-3; 0-0 SCIAC); The Sage Hens traveled East to play in the Bruno Classic; even though they no longer go to NCAAs Pomona-Pitzer comes to play—and will be at the Kalbus Invitational.

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