The two marquee events for Water Polo fans are the Olympics and the NCAA championships. Every four years is a thrilling for followers of the sport as spectators get the opportunity to enjoy high-class water polo within months of each other.
This year’s NCAA championships are particularly exciting as the tournament feels up for grabs between an offensive force in Stanford and a defensive powerhouse in UCLA. Should the top two ranked teams in the country square off, it could be a match for the ages.
What could stop the dream matchup? How about a dangerous USC squad led by the best head coach in the business in Jovan Vavic? UC-Irvine and Loyola Marymount are both underrated squads and loom as dark horses.
Check out players to watch before a champion is crowned.
The second-ranked Cardinal enter the NCAA championships as the top-seeded squad. Stanford boasts a powerful offensive attack. The draw sets up favorably for the Cardinal as they will see either UC Irvine or Loyola Marymount in the semifinals and Stanford convincingly defeated both squads during the regular season.
Notable Players: Cutino Award Finalist and MPSF Newcomer of the Year Kiley Neushul, First-Team All-MPSF performer Kaley Dodson, Second-Team All-MPSF performer Alyssa Lo.
The top-ranked UCLA Bruins are coming off an MPSF Tournament championship victory against Stanford. The Bruins arrive boasting not only the best goalie in the country but arguably the nation’s top player in Caitlin Dement.
Notable Players: Cutino Award Finalist and MPSF Player of the Year Caitlin Dement, Cutino Award Finalist and First-Team All-MPSF performer KK Clark
An experienced Trojans squad arrives with the knowledge of what it takes to win a title as the Trojans won the championship in 2010 and finished fourth in 2011. USC enters this year’s NCAA championships coming off a 4-3 victory against fourth-ranked California in the MPSF’s third-place game.
Notable Players: First-Team All-MPSF performer Monica Vavic, Second-Team All-MPSF performer Flora Bolonyai, Second-Team All-MPSF performer Kaleigh Gilchrist.
UC Irvine emerged victorious in their fourth consecutive Big West Conference Tournament and the sixth-ranked Anteaters are a very dangerous squad. UC Irvine went undefeated in conference play as the Anteaters were one of four teams that were ranked all season.
Notable Players: Big West Player of the Year Jessy Cardey, First-Team All-Big West performer Katie Croghan, First-Team All-Big West Performer Kelsey Klatt, First-Team All-Big West performer Danielle Warde
The WWPA champions are an experienced, physical squad that will be a tough out at this year’s tournament. The Lions enter NCAAs having won nine out of their last ten games with the only loss coming in overtime to UCLA on April 15. Kyle Witt was the architect of one of the biggest upsets in NCAA championship history as his LMU Lions were the team that ended UCLA’s five-year NCAA Championship winning streak in May 2010.
Notable Players: WWPA Player of the Year Casey Flacks, First-Team All-WWPA performer Elise Ponce, Second-Team All-WWPA performer Kimberly Beneditti
The Tigers enter the tournament riding a seven game winning streak. Princeton boasts an impressive 28-4 record and won the CWPA Championships for only the second time and the first since 2000
Notable Players: CWPA Southern Division Player of the Year Katie Rigler, First-Team All-CWPA South performer Molly McBee, Second-Team All-CWPA South performer Kristen Ward and Second-Team All-CWPA South performer Audrey Zak
The MAAC champions qualified for their second consecutive NCAA championship by virtue of defeating Wagner 10-9 in overtime. Iona is currently sporting a thirteen-game winning streak; however they were 0-6 against ranked competition during the season.
Notable Players: First-Team All-MAAC performer Cecilia Leonard, First-Team All-MAAC performer Amy Olsen and Second-Team All-MAAC performer MacKenzie Mone
The Sagehens have won eleven on the trot and wrapped up the SCIAC’s automatic bid in dramatic fashion with a 12-11 sudden death overtime victory over Redlands. Watch out for Tamara Perea as she is an experienced player who can cause problems.
Notable Players: SCIAC Player of the Year Tamara Perea, First-Team All-SCIAC performer Perri Hopkins and Second-Team All-SCIAC performer Annie Oxborough-Yankus.