Feb. 10, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com

Two great tournaments highlighted the water polo calendar on Super Bowl weekend.  While the NFL had their clash of the titans occurring in Miami, Palo Alto was the scene where the top two ranked teams in the country staged their first battle. 

While the Stanford Invitational involved the majority of the top ten ranked teams in the country, numerous other top twenty teams were facing off in San Diego.  One of the participants in the Triton Invitational at UC-San Diego was the same team that made headlines on the season’s first weekend by shocking the five-time defending NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins.  Prior to San Diego State’s third-place finish at the Triton Invitational, I sat down with their head coach, Carin Crawford, to discuss her team.  Below is our interview.

Your team started off the season by defeating the five-time defending NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins and losing to Michigan at the Michigan Invitational.  It feels like San Diego State is going to be right in that mix of about six or seven teams fighting for an at-large bid.  What does your squad have to do in order to qualify for NCAAs? 
 
It is so early in the season to know what a win against
UCLA or a loss against Michigan will mean in the long run.  We played great defense against UCLA and lackluster defense against Michigan.  We need to play defense and understand that the offense will take care of itselfOver the long run, we need to play great defense against the top teams in the nation.  We need to put ourselves in position to win the game in the fourth quarter and we need to play great defense in order to do that.  The top teams usually have great offensive weapons and a great counter attack, so defense will be the key. 
 
Kelly Campoli was key in your upset of UCLA.  Can you tell us what makes her so effective in the cage? 
 
Kelly had fifteen saves against UCLA.  She sparks the whole team and is our leader defensively.  When she's on, we feed off of that.  As a team, we need to play good enough defense so she can make saves.  When Kelly is pulling down quality shots, it energizes us on offense.  She started as a freshman, so even though she is only a sophomore, we are confident in her experience. 
 
Ronni Gautschi had a big weekend in Michigan as she was named MPSF
Player of the Week.  Can you tell us what makes her so effective? 
 
Ronni is a four-year returner and co-captain.  She brings leadership and has high expectations for herself and the team.  If the team is giving anything less than 100%, she is not okay with that and will let it be known.  Ronni inspires her teammates.  Even if we're beating a team handily, she still expects us to make great decisions.  She is great for me as a coach as she transmits my expectations to the team.

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Down 2-1 in the second quarter, the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal were locked in a tight battle with Bay Area rival and fourth-ranked California for the Stanford Invitational championship.  However, when the tension began to rise so did the Cardinal as they would score three of the next four goals and never trail again in winning 10-7 over a game Golden Bears squad.  Kelly Eaton, Pallavi Menon and Melissa Seidemann each scored twice in leading Stanford to a win that cemented Stanford’s early grip on the top ranking in the country.  This was the first time Stanford won their tournament since 2003 and their path to the title game was not an easy one.  The Cardinal’s route to the Stanford Invitational championship took them through second-ranked USC in bracket play in another game that ended with a 10-7 final.  Their win over the Trojans was impressive as Stanford jumped out to a 4-2 first quarter lead and never let USC within two goals the rest of the way in scoring the victory.  Kelly Eaton’s four goals paced the Cardinal.  Stanford also defeated sixth-ranked Michigan and seventh-ranked San Jose State at Stanford Invitational.  This tournament was the first test of the season and Stanford passed with flying colors.  It will be interesting to see if Stanford is truly two to three goals better than the rest of the country or if a team like USC or California will be able to knock Stanford off their perch later this season.

Despite losing to the Cardinal in the Stanford Invitational Championship game, fourth-ranked California can be proud of their performance this weekend.  Cal defeated third-ranked Hawaii, fifth-ranked UCLA and ninth-ranked Arizona State in tournament play.  Prior to the Stanford Invitational, fourth-ranked California won a key conference game over third-ranked Hawaii 7-4.  The Golden Bears jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead and kept Hawaii at bay from there.  Stephanie Peckham had eleven saves while Emily Csikos notched a hat trick to lead the Golden Bears.  

First-year coach Kyle Witt and his tenth-ranked Loyola Marymount Lions were extremely impressive in coasting to the Triton Invitational championship.  Loyola Marymount scored fifty-seven goals over the tournament’s four games and looked impressive in dominating the field.  In the semifinals, Loyola Marymount defeated eleventh-ranked UC-Irvine 11-5 behind a stellar effort from USC transfer Kristine Cato.  The goalie had ten saves (including one on a five-meter) and pitched a shutout in the second half to lead the Lions to victory.  In the championship game against Hartwick, Loyola Marymount built up a 10-3 lead and cruised from there.  Cato tallied fourteen saves in this contest while Anne Scott and Hana Gosney each had a hat trick.  The big takeaway from the Triton was not that Loyola Marymount won the tournament.  Loyola Marymount, San Diego State, Hartwick and UC-Irvine were clearly the favorites in this field.  It was how Loyola Marymount won this tournament.  They played three ranked teams on the weekend (with fifteenth-ranked UC-Davis being a first-day victim) and not one of those games was all that close.  One has to wonder if maybe we need to think about including Loyola Marymount’s name when discussing the top five or six teams in the country after what they did at the Triton Invitational.

Player of the Week

Kristine Cato, Loyola Marymount, Fr.:  The redshirt freshman was electric in her first action between the pipes for Loyola Marymount.  Her combined twenty-four saves against UC-Irvine and Hartwick helped propel the Lions to victory.  Keep an eye on Cato as the transfer from USC had a highly decorated high school career which included being a high school and Junior Olympic All-American.

Game to Watch

The tenth-ranked Lions of Loyola Marymount take on cross-town rivals and second-ranked USC in what should be an intriguing showdown.  After losing to Stanford at the Stanford Invitational, USC whitewashed fifth-ranked UCLA and sixth-ranked Michigan.  They will be facing a Lions team that started off the season in impressive fashion and will be looking to add another high-profile scalp to their resume.