April 5, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


In the shadow of the greatest weekend in NCAA sports was thrilling action at pools across America.  We had battles raging from Tempe to Ann Arbor.  April is here and the race for NCAAs is picking up in women’s water polo.  This is reflected in the action that we saw this week and will see for the rest of this month.  

With the race to make NCAAs getting hotter, I thought we would catch up with a coach who has guided her troops to the past two tournaments.  Ashleigh Jacobs has quietly turned Poughkeepsie, New York into a destination spot for women interested in making NCAAs as her team at Marist College is once again in the hunt for a bid.  Marist is looking like the favorites in the MAAC and wins this weekend over Wagner and St. Francis are evidence of that.  I caught up with Coach Jacobs prior to her team’s victories and below is our interview.

What does Marist have to do to win the MAAC and get back to NCAAs for a third consecutive season?

We need to focus on the experiences we have had throughout the season and bring them together and finish strong.  We have played a very difficult schedule in preparation for the next month and a half.  If we can put everything together we will be a very strong team.

Jessica Getchius has been outstanding in the cage for your squad.  What makes her the effective goalie that she is?

She has a team mentality, personality, and is a team player through and through.  She is an absolute pleasure to coach, she wants to be better and doesn't cut corners, and is always looking to make drills more difficult, challenging, and gamelike.  She will never let her team get away with an easy goal and is always challenging her teammates to get better.

Samantha Swartz has been a mainstay on your NCAA Tournament squads.  What makes her the great player that she is?

Sam is a competitor and the very core of the word.  She is a student of the game and has a winning attitude and personality.  She is consistent every day and similar to Getchius, she will not cut corners and is a student of the game.  Sam will give whatever it takes to get back to the NCAA tournament.
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The marquee matchup of the weekend was a clash for CWPA supremacy between two fierce rivals in fifteenth-ranked Indiana and eighth-ranked Michigan.  In what was a tight affair, Michigan was able to prevail behind eight steals from Leah Robertson and two fourth quarter five-meter penalty conversions from Lauren Orth.  With this victory, Michigan captured the CWPA Western Division crown.  This win is the twelfth in a row for Michigan and their defense looked great on Saturday.  People forget that Michigan tends to perform better down the stretch of the season.  Last year, the Wolverines ripped off twenty-five straight victories and won twenty-seven of their last twenty-eight games with the lone loss coming to the eventual NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins at NCAAs.  Do not sleep on Michigan.  This is a team that has wins over fifth-ranked Hawaii and seventh-ranked San Jose State and could be very dangerous at NCAAs.  

The third-ranked Golden Bears of California survived a dangerous trip to the desert on Saturday afternoon.  Up 11-10 entering the fourth quarter, Cal used a three goal period to pull away and defeat ninth-ranked Arizona State 14-11.  Nine Golden Bears scored with Meghan Corso’s hat trick leading the way.  Stephanie Peckham was the major factor for California as she had fifteen crucial saves.

Top-ranked USC won three games during the week as they defeated twentieth-ranked Brown, nineteenth-ranked Cal State Bakersfield and tenth-ranked Cal State Northridge.  The closest contest out of those three was against Brown.  Up 4-2 going into the second quarter, USC broke this game open when they reeled off four straight scores.  Patricia Jansco had a hat trick to lead all scorers while Tumua Anae’s eleven saves anchored the defense.  These three victories make fifteen in a row for a Trojan team that is looking more impressive with each game.

One team that has quietly been playing great water polo is the young Gauchos of UC-Santa Barbara.  UCSB won their sixth straight contest as they handily defeated UC-Irvine 13-7.  The Gauchos used a 3-0 third quarter to break open a game that was 7-4 at halftime.  Lizzie Rouleau scored four goals while Christie Clark and Katie Kepner each chipped in two.  While tenth-ranked Cal-State Northridge is the favorite for the Big West title, twelfth-ranked UC-Santa Barbara is emerging as a dangerous challenger.  These two squads meet in Santa Barbara next weekend and I expect the game to be a nailbiter.  Keep an eye on the goalie matchup in this contest as there will be two very strong keepers involved.  Jillian Stapf is the senior All-American superstar while Ruth Milne is an exciting freshman prospect with U.S. Junior National team credentials.

Player of the Week

Leah Robertson, Michigan, Sr.:  Leah Robertson has long been considered one of the best two-meter defenders in the nation and her defense disrupted the Hoosier attack.  Robertson set a Canham Natatorium record with eight steals against Indiana.  She also chipped in a goal for the Wolverines in their key victory.

Contest to Watch

Second-ranked Stanford travels to the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Center to meet a fifth-ranked Hawaii team that is desperate for another marquee win to add to their NCAA resume.  Expect a partisan home crowd and a fired up Rainbow Wahine squad as this is an outstanding chance to bolster their NCAA at-large bid chances.