Jan. 25, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


It is not that often that an eye-opening upset occurs on the first weekend of the season, but that is what happened at the Michigan Invitational when seventh-ranked San Diego State announced to the water polo world that they are a team to be reckoned with this season.  The Aztecs stunned the third-ranked and five-time defending NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins in overtime 7-6 on the season’s first day.  However, before the water polo public could properly digest that victory and wonder aloud if that win would catapult the Aztecs to long a winning streak, the host Wolverines of Michigan took down San Diego State 9-4 on Sunday only a few hours after having lost earlier that morning 10-7 to UCLA.  Needless to say, it was a wild weekend of water polo.

What does this all mean?  One might surmise that after top-ranked Stanford and second-ranked USC you can throw a blanket over the teams ranked third through tenth as third-ranked UCLA, seventh-ranked San Diego State and tenth-ranked Michigan all established this weekend that they can beat each other on any given day.  If that is the case, then the race for the three NCAA at-large bids might never be more exciting.     

What makes San Diego State’s win over UCLA stunning was that most observers felt that last season would be San Diego State’s breakout campaign.  Like UCLA, San Diego State came into this game with a lot of new parts as the Aztecs were replacing an All-American trio of Jenna Schuster, Anna Gonzales and Erinn Greenwood.  Despite those losses, San Diego State was able to prevail behind an outstanding defensive effort which was led by returning All-American goalie Kelly Campoli.  The Aztecs pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter and overtime.  This enabled them to rally from being down 6-4 entering the fourth stanza to emerging victorious.  Senior Melissa de Jonckheere scored the game-winner for a San Diego State team that had seven different players find the back of the net.  While the loss to Michigan on Sunday was disappointing, the Aztecs did go 3-1 on the weekend as they also defeated UC San Diego and Colorado State.

After losing to San Diego State, UCLA faced Michigan on Sunday morning.  The third quarter made the difference in this contest as UCLA shut Michigan out while adding two goals of their own to extend a halftime lead from 6-5 to 8-5.  The Bruins then held on in the fourth quarter to win 10-7.  While the loss to San Diego State was obviously a shocker, UCLA’s young team showed a lot of character in not hanging their heads and blowing the game against Michigan as well.  The Orozco sisters are a main cog of the Bruin attack and they rebounded from a zero goal effort against San Diego State to scoring seven times in the win over Michigan.  In other action on the weekend, UCLA defeated nineteenth-ranked Indiana and UC San Diego.  Grace Reynolds scored four times in the win over Indiana.  Reynolds is a very highly regarded transfer from California who is expected to be an impact player for the Bruins.

Michigan ended last season as hot a team as there was in the country.  The Wolverines won twenty-seven of their last twenty-eight games with the lone defeat coming to the eventual NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins in the first round of NCAAs.  Despite that loss, Michigan ended last season on a high note as they won two straight in the NCAA Tournament to capture fifth place.  With that as a backdrop, Michigan was looking to continue that momentum by grabbing a big-name scalp.  They did that.  The tenth-ranked Wolverines drilled San Diego State 9-4 on Sunday.  Michigan stormed out to a 7-2 halftime lead and never looked back.  Freshman Kiki Golden led the way with three goals.  Keep a close eye on Golden as there are water polo observers out there who feel she could be in the top five in terms of impact freshmen.  Michigan also defeated Colorado State and UC San Diego on the weekend.  Another freshman in Lauren Colton scored four times against Colorado State while Lauren Orth, Leah Robertson and Alison Mantel each scored twice in the winning effort over UC San Diego.  

Sixth-ranked San Jose State was also at the Michigan Invitational and the Spartans got their season started off on the right foot.  They defeated Colorado State, Indiana and UC San Diego.     One notable item that happened for San Jose State this weekend is that Adriana Vogt became only the twelfth player in Spartan history to record over a hundred career goals.

The Michigan Invitational was not the only water polo action on the weekend as fifteenth-ranked UCSB faced seventeenth-ranked Cal-State Bakersfield in an intriguing nonconference clash.  The Gauchos raced out to a 4-1 halftime lead and were able to hold on for an impressive 5-3 win.  Ruth Milne led an outstanding defensive effort with nine saves while Christie Clark notched two goals to lead the scoring.  Milne is a highly regarded freshman who was a member of the United States Junior National team. Clark is back after redshirting last season.  She was UCSB’s second leading scorer in 2008.  Alyson Moss scored two goals in the Bakersfield defeat.  Both squads also played SCIAC contender Pomona-Pitzer this weekend and emerged victorious.