Feb. 22, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


The water polo universe was squarely centered on a marquee clash between the third and fourth ranked teams in the country and the contest did not disappoint.  UCLA showed the world why they are the five-time defending NCAA Champions and reminded that you can never underestimate a champion’s heart.  Meanwhile, the top two ranked teams in the country used this weekend to tune up for what should be a riveting UC-Irvine Invitational next Saturday and Sunday.

Before we begin our dissection of the week that was women’s water polo, we have a special treat.  One of the great stories in NCAA sports right now is the success a school located in Oneonta, New York has been having over the past decade against universities with a much larger national profile.  Hartwick College is a small liberal arts school in upstate New York and it boasts a water polo team that once again has NCAA dreams.  Hartwick College checked in at number twelve in this week’s rankings and stands as fifth-ranked Michigan’s biggest Eastern threat.  I caught up with Coach Alan Huckins prior to his team’s departure for the Princeton Invitational and we spoke about his team and its prospects for the upcoming season.  Below is our interview.

Yourself and Michigan are clearly the favorites in the East.  What does your team have to do to beat Michigan and win the CWPA?

We have to stay healthy.  We also have a lot of newcomers, both freshmen and transfers and we need to get them to play like veterans.  Then we need some breaks to go our way.

Kirsten Hudson is clearly one of the top players in the country.  What makes her the great player that she is?

Kirsten has a lot of international experience.  She always gives 100% be it at practice, walking to practice and in the games.  She is very fast.  While Kirsten is undersized, she plays a lot bigger.  Kirsten has all the tools you would want in a top player and she is left-handed on top of that.  I personally think she is one of the top lefties in the country.

Jessica Dorman has been a very good goalie for your squad.  What makes her so effective?

Jess has the height, wingspan and work ethic that you need out of your goalie.  She also wants to learn the shooters and does a lot of studying.
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If the five-time defending NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins go on another roll, remember the last half of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter of this game as when it began.  Down 5-3 with 2:55 left in the third stanza, the Bruin defense shut the Golden Bears out until the final fifty-seven seconds of the game and scored four goals of their own to grab a 7-5 lead they would never relinquish.  The final result was 7-6 as an Emily Csikos five-meter penalty conversion narrowed the deficit.  In what was the game of the weekend, UCLA emerged victorious and in the process scored a huge, road conference victory.  For UCLA, they have a nice feather in their cap as wins will not come cheaply in Berkeley this season.  The overall road trip was a complete success as the Bruins also defeated fifteenth-ranked UC Davis and Sonoma State on their trip up North.  On the other side, California needs to put this loss behind them and not let it affect their confidence heading into the upcoming UCI Invitational where they will most likely see a very tough Hawaii team on the tournament’s opening day.

Top-ranked Stanford and second-ranked USC both cruised through the weekend.  Stanford faced tenth-ranked San Jose State and used a five-goal third period to break open a game that was 4-2 at halftime.  Melissa Seidemann struck three times to lead the Cardinal to the 10-4 win over their Bay Area rivals.  Meanwhile, USC rolled past eleventh-ranked UC-Irvine 15-5 behind a hat trick each from Alexandra Kiss and Kally Lucas.

Fifth-ranked Michigan saw the cream of the Eastern crop at the Princeton Invitational and the Wolverines continued to have the look of a team destined to make waves at NCAAs this spring.  On Saturday, Michigan faced off with two Eastern rivals with NCAA dreams and was able to dispatch both of them.  Their first contest of the weekend was with host and twentieth-ranked Princeton.  The Wolverines outscored Princeton 4-1 in the second quarter to build a 6-3 halftime lead and they never looked back from there in winning 13-10.  Lauren Orth and Leah Robertson each scored four goals to lead the Wolverines.  Against twelfth-ranked Hartwick, Michigan scored eight second-quarter goals to build a 10-4 lead.  From there, Michigan never let Hartwick get closer than arms length in winning 14-11.  Leah Robertson scored six times in the Wolverine victory.  Sunday was an easier day for Michigan as they defeated Harvard and Wagner by a combined score of 25-8.  Nine Wolverines scored in the win over Harvard while eight found the back of the net against Wagner.

In other action, seventh-ranked Loyola Marymount downed rival UC San Diego 10-4 behind four goals from Anne Scott.  Sixteenth-ranked Pacific had a successful weekend as they drilled Santa Clara and Cal State Monterey Bay over the weekend.  Their win over Cal State Monterey Bay was by a 14-7 count and was keyed by four goals each from New Zealand international Jasmine Myles and Dara Tawarahara.  The game against Santa Clara was also a blowout as Pacific won 11-4 behind four goals from Myles.  Keep an eye on Pacific in the Big West title race as the Tigers are officially frisky.  An argument can be made that the only thing separating Pacific from being the highest ranked Big West team in the national rankings is the fact that they started the year unranked.

Player of the Week
Caitlin Dement, UCLA, Soph.:  As a general rule, anytime a goalie saves twenty or more shots, they win Player of the Week.  Dement submitted a ridiculous, career-high twenty-two saves in the Bruins 8-3 win over fifteenth-ranked UC-Davis.  The sophomore has inherited the role from the graduated Brittany Fullen and has nicely filled the shoes of somebody whom I thought was arguably the Most Valuable Player in the country last spring.

Contest to Watch
The UCI Invitational is being contested next weekend and it should be a doozy.  The top eleven teams in the country and thirteen of the best fifteen will be competing in what will truly be a shakeout Saturday on the women’s side.  Wins in this tournament could prove to be extremely valuable in the race for an NCAA at-large bid.  Keep an eye on Bracket C and Bracket D.  If seedings hold to form, we could have matchups between Cal-Hawaii and UCLA-Michigan on the tournament’s opening day.