April 12, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


With NCAAs only a month away, the action in the pool is getting hot.  This week included an electric Sunday night clash that involved two top five teams.  The fourth-ranked team in the country was forced to stage a second-half rally to avoid a devastating loss. There were crucial conference matchups dotting the water polo landscape and we will cover all of it in this week’s notebook.

We begin with a treat though as I got a chance to sit down with the head coach of the seventeenth-ranked Tritons of UC-San Diego.  Brad Kreutzkamp’s squad entered this weekend riding a six-game winning streak and looking like a team poised to challenge eighth-ranked Loyola Marymount for the WWPA’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.  Below is my interview with UC-San Diego’s leader.  

Your team is on a bit of a roll having won six straight and seven out of your last eight games heading into this weekend.  Can you tell us what your team has to do to stay hot and possibly challenge LMU for a WWPA title?

We need to stay as positive as we possibly can and not try to do too much.  Our goal for this season was to do the little things right and eventually everything would take care of itself.

Stephanie Heinrich is a returning All-American for your squad and is having a great season.  What makes her the great player that she is?

Stephanie is a bull in front of the cage.  She can get set on anyone.  She doesn't try to just draw ejections and is always looking to score.

Markayla Quane has been very effective for your squad in the cage.  What makes her the stellar goalie that she is?

Markayla is fearless.  She squares up on the ball and takes it all the way.  Our defensive scheme allows her to see the shots that are coming and she is doing a great job of anticipating where the ball is going.  I think she is a conference MVP candidate.

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Second-ranked Stanford traveled to the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Center to face fifth-ranked Hawaii in the marquee matchup of the week.  Stanford did not use the trip as a sightseeing and surfing adventure as they took care of business against a desperate Rainbow Wahine squad.  The Cardinal never trailed in winning 10-6.  After Hawaii had shaved the Stanford lead to 7-5 in the third quarter, the Cardinal went on a two-goal run to put the game away.  Kelly Eaton scored four goals while freshman sensation Annika Dries chipped in three to lead the way.  This game represented a huge chance for Hawaii to boost their NCAA at-large chances and it fell to the wayside.  Hawaii will need to refocus after this disappointing loss as there cannot be a letdown against their upcoming opponent which is sixth-ranked San Jose State.  Meanwhile, Stanford faces third-ranked California next Saturday in what promises to be an intense rivalry affair.

Fourth-ranked UCLA got the job done this week as they defeated seventh-ranked Loyola Marymount and fourteenth-ranked San Diego State.  Against LMU, the Bruins outscored the Lions 4-1 in the third quarter to break open a close game and score an 8-4 road victory.  Grace Reynolds and Priscilla Orozco each scored twice for UCLA as they snapped Loyola Marymount’s fourteen-game winning streak with the victory.  Getting blitzed in the third quarter and losing at home has to serve as a big disappointment for a Loyola Marymount team that entered this game on a roll.  Meanwhile, UCLA needs every single game they play for the rest of this season as they are in a battle with Cal and Hawaii for what looks to be two NCAA at-large bids.  Following the Thursday night road win over LMU, UCLA had a Saturday matinee against a conference foe in San Diego State that had pinned a loss on them at the beginning of the season.  Down 4-3 at the half, UCLA saved themselves from a defeat that would have fallen squarely into the “bad loss” category.  Kelly Easterday scored twice and the Bruin defense shut San Diego State out in the fourth quarter to win 7-5.  

Tenth-ranked Cal State Northridge took a big step towards winning the Big West’s regular season championship as they defeated thirteenth-ranked UC-Santa Barbara 7-6.  In what was a back and forth affair, the game was not decided until Sydney Sonoda drew a five-meter penalty shot with twenty seconds left.  Whitney Delgado then calmly drilled the winner for the Matadors.  Following their win over UCSB, Cal State Northridge also defeated nineteenth-ranked Cal Baptist 6-2 behind fourteen saves from Jillian Stapf.  This was the twelfth game of the season in which Stapf had ten or more saves.  That win also moved Cal State Northridge one win away from their school record of twenty-four victories which was set in 2003.

Top-ranked USC dispatched ninth-ranked Arizona State with ease as they notched a 14-5 victory in Tempe on Saturday.  Kally Lucas scored four goals while Joelle Bekhazi chipped in three for the Women of Troy.  That game was merely a tune-up for next week’s encounter as their storied rival, fourth-ranked UCLA will be strolling into town for what promises to be a fierce battle.

Out East, Marist had a stellar weekend as they extended their winning streak to seven straight games and tightened their grip on the MAAC with wins over St. Francis, Villanova, Iona and Siena.  Meanwhile, Princeton won three games against CWPA Southern Division foes in Maryland, George Washington and Bucknell over the weekend.  Kirsten Ward was the critical factor in the 4-3 win over first-place Bucknell as she had twelve saves to lead the Tigers.  Princeton now stands at 3-1 in the CWPA South and are even in the loss column with the Bison who currently have a 4-1 conference record.

Player of the Week

Jessica Barby, Washington & Jefferson College, Sr.:  The senior from Sinking Spring, PA scored twenty-one goals over the weekend in leading the Presidents to wins over Chatham, Connecticut College, Utica College, Penn State-Behrend and a loss to Grove City.  This included a career high eight-goal performance in their win over Penn State-Behrend.

Contest to Watch

Senior Night at USC will be must-watch water polo as the five-time defending NCAA Champion and fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins will be looking to crash top-ranked USC’s party.  Expect this game to live up to the hype as UCLA’s spot in the projected NCAA Tournament field is nowhere near secure and they will be hunting for another marquee win to hang their hat on.