Feb. 10, 2009

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com

Women’s water polo season truly kicked off this past weekend with the Stanford and Triton Invitationals.  The longest winning streak in the nation was snapped with UCLA’s upset loss to Hawaii. One team emerged as being the best in the country as the Women of Troy are playing like the water polo men did last fall. 

Before we get into this past week of action, we sat down with a coach and discussed a story that did not get nearly enough publicity.  Last season, when the NCAA tournament took place, you had the usual heavyweights like UCLA, USC and Stanford.  Perennial top 15 teams like UC-Davis, Michigan and San Diego State were also at the party as was Division III power Pomona-Pitzer.  However, the eighth team came from a school whose water polo history is still forming.  The Red Foxes of Marist arrived from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. for last year’s tournament and look primed to make a return appearance.  I spoke with their coach Ashleigh Jacobs prior to the team’s two wins over Santa Clara and Redlands at the Triton Invitational.  Below is my interview with the Hartwick graduate.

Your team is coming off an extremely successful campaign.  Here is the million dollar question: Are you going to get back to NCAAs and what is it going to take?

We are working hard and definitely preparing for that opportunity.   We have a tough playing schedule setup from the get-go with SDSU and the Triton Invite which will help battle-test us for conference play.  But it’s a long season and we will take it one game at a time.

Can you tell us a little bit about Katelin McCahill and what makes her the great player that she is?

Absolutely.  Her nickname is the "Junkyard Dog" coined by her remarkable ability to scrap and make something out of nothing and fight through complications.   She is an incredibly tough competitor with great instinct and leadership qualities.   No matter what the situation and score Kate won’t stop playing until the final buzzer.  She is a very driven athlete and individual.  

Samantha Swartz is another key member of your squad.  Can you tell us a little bit about what makes her so effective?

First off, she is a student of the game.   She’s played about every team sport you could offer and excels uniquely in each alike.   She has a great respect for the game and is always hungry to learn more whether through discussion, video, or tapes.   She’s a likeable teammate who gives everything a 100%.   It also doesn’t hurt that she has an incredible arm, and is a tremendous outside shooter.

Angie Rampton is another important member of your team.  What makes her the special player that she is?

Angie is a playmaker on both ends of the pool.   Most of the work she does is off the ball and she has much success creating opportunities for her teammates, and on the defensive end whether or not she gets tallied with the steal she helps force a mistake.  She has watched all our films multiple times and has a great understanding for the game.   The more involved she is in plays, the better we are as a team.

Are there any newcomers that you are expecting to make an impact?

It was a small recruiting class as we returned 18.   However, we feel really good about the three newcomers we got.  The first is Jessica Getchius, a transfer goalie from Ventura Junior College.   She is great at shutting down counter attacks and power plays, and in addition to my existing sophomore goalie our defensive end has remained solid.  Next, we have two freshmen.  The first is Desiree Desaulniers, a 6-foot-1 driver with good speed and a great outside shot.  The other freshman is Kelly Kline, a utility player who will work into two-meter defense.

I noted that you signed one player in the most recent signing period.  Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Yes, we are very thrilled with Kristin Zepeda from Mission Viejo High School.  She currently leads the league as well as her team in steals, and I have great respect for her coaches.   She will continue to play with Irvine Club this summer, as well as some private training with Gabriel.   She will bring speed, depth, and tremendous potential to the roster.  We look forward to her arrival.

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UCLA’s 46-game winning streak was snapped on the opening day of what was a wild Stanford Invitational.  After defeating tenth-ranked San Jose State 13-6, third-ranked UCLA came across a Hawaii team that was angry about a loss that happened to San Jose State earlier in the week.  Fourth-ranked Hawaii took down UCLA 13-12 by closing out the game with a flourish.  Down 10-8 heading into the fourth quarter, Hawaii got a monster effort down the stretch from Kelly Mason (she had six scores on the game) and were able to defeat UCLA for the first time in their program’s history.  The weekend would not get much better for the Bruins as they lost the third-place game to Stanford the following day by a 10-5 count.  What was surprising about this game was how Stanford beat the Bruins.  The Cardinal jumped out to a 6-3 lead on the four-time defending NCAA Champions and never truly let UCLA into the game.

While UCLA finally showing mortality was the main story of the Stanford Invitational, the other one was a USC team that was dominant.  On the opening day of action, top-ranked USC rolled through seventh-ranked Arizona State by a 19-9 score.  Eleven Trojans scored in the victory.  What was surprising about that win was that most felt Arizona State was going to at least provide a test for the Women of Troy.  USC’s next contest was against second-ranked Stanford and it was a dandy.  Overtime goals from Michelle Stein, Kristin Dronberger and Canadian National Team member Joelle Bekhazi lifted the Trojans to the 12-10 win.  On the second day of action the Trojans defeated 18th-ranked Indiana and fourth-ranked Hawaii by a combined score of 24-8 to win the Championship.   

San Diego State was the story of the Triton Invitational as they not only won the Championship but they did it in a fashion that a team destined to make waves would do it.  The Aztecs rolled through Maryland 14-6 and then were able to defeat twelfth-ranked UC-Irvine, eighth-ranked Michigan and ninth-ranked UC-Davis in succession.  The semifinal wins over Michigan and UC-Davis were particularly impressive in the way that they happened.  The Aztecs jumped on both of those teams and never trailed in either contest in beating Michigan by three goals and UC-Davis by four.  While returning All-American Anna Gonzales was electric in the two contests on the second day of action as she ripped off seven goals, it was a freshman that stole the show.  Freshman goalie Kelly Campoli from El Toro, CA was outstanding as she turned back twenty-six shots in the semifinal and final victories. 

UC-Davis and Loyola Marymount both have to be happy with their showings at the Triton Invitational.  UC-Davis defeated Redlands 19-4 on the opening day and then survived a 10-9 overtime clash with the host UC-San Diego Tritons.  Lindsay Kiyama netted the game-winner with seven seconds left in the second overtime to seal the victory.  In the semifinals, UC-Davis was able to outscore eleventh-ranked Loyola Marymount 4-1 in the third quarter which enabled them to pull away for a 9-7 win.  The Lions of LMU had a successful weekend despite that loss as they also went 3-1 at the Triton Invitational.  They defeated Cal Baptist 14-6 in their opening game and then won an overtime nailbiter over fifteenth-ranked Long Beach State 9-8.  Nicole Hughes was the star for Loyola Marymount on the first day as she scored nine goals in those two contests.  Following their loss to UC Davis in the semifinals, Loyola Marymount knocked off Michigan by an 8-6 count.  Mary Ann Campos scored four times and Nicole Hughes dropped three in what was a slight upset.

We end on a sad note from the world of men's water polo.  On Tuesday as I was surfing the internet for anything to do with water polo, I came across news that the men's head coaching job at St. Francis has opened up.  That means one of the true gentlemen in water polo has quietly walked away from the coaching ranks.  Carl Quigley was a giant on the East Coast and as good a coach as he was, Quigley was a better person. 

My first writing assignment covering water polo was on the St. Francis team and their Final Four chances in 2006.  I recall nervously looking up their SID's number and requesting an interview with Coach Quigley.  Then I remember getting the opportunity to talk water polo with him and ask my questions.  After nervously fumbling through about fifteen minutes, I was getting ready to thank him for his time when he said, "How are you doing Trevor, you played at Fordham right?"  For the next ten minutes, we had an incredible conversation.  We discussed former St. Francis greats like Dominik Rohe and Danny Satchkov.  It was at that point that I decided I wanted to write about the sport of water polo for as long as somebody would let me.  I interviewed him two subsequent times over the past two seasons and each time his first question would be, "why are you interviewing me, you should be interviewing Billy Harris at Fordham, he is doing a great job over there."  Coach Quigley had the unique ability to make one feel like you knew him forever.

St. Francis is a special place with a great water polo tradition.  I cherished the times we played against that incredible program and their phenomenal athletes.  There will be some awfully large shoes to fill on that pool deck.  Hopefully the next person who steps into that job understands the importance of keeping one of the East's flagship programs near the top, which is where they belong.

Player to Watch

Kelly Mason, Hawaii, Sr:  Mason was the star in the Rainbow Wahine’s win over UCLA as she poured in six goals.  The native of New Zealand ended up with ten goals against Division I competition at the Stanford Invitational.

Contest To Keep An Eye On

San Diego State and UCLA will duel on Friday night and it should be a dandy.  This game is at UCLA and the Bruins will be trying to lick the wounds of not only watching their 46-game winning streak end, but perhaps their aura of invincibility.  The loss to Stanford the day after the loss to Hawaii was incredible as nobody had seen UCLA get beat like that in years.  Now the Bruins are hosting a veteran San Diego State team that comes into this game undefeated and is looking to claim that “Big Three” scalp that has eluded them.