CWPA Top 25 Women’s Varsity Water Polo: There’s USC, Stanford… and Everyone Else


Last weekend all of the nation’s top teams were in action for the first time in 2022, with one notable upset that helped shape the rankings in this week’s Collegiate Water Polo Women’s Varsity Poll.

[CWPA 2022 Women’s Varsity Polls – Week 2/February 2]

That upset belongs to Long Island University. The Sharks, unranked and in just their third year of existence, stunned #10 Indiana in the Michigan Invitational, topping the Hoosiers 14-9. For their efforts, LIU was voted #17, easily the highest ranking in program history. Indiana dropped to 18th.

USC, favored for a second-straight national championship—adding to the seven they’ve already one—opened the season by trouncing Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) members Claremont-Mudd-Scripts and Occidental. Things get a more competitive this weekend, with the Trojan facing DI powers, including the annual early season scrimmage against rival UCLA. Stanford, the primary threat to the Trojans’ title, easily swept four Eastern opponents in opening its season at the Michigan Invite.

The Bruins host the Trojans and the Bulldogs at Spieker Aquatics Center this weekend; another noteworthy  invite is at Brown, where the Bruno Classic will feature 11 teams, including the host Bears, playing 19 matches. Every match will be streamed on ESPN+

[2022 Bruno Classic Tournament Central]

A number of Top 20 teams are resting up for the Triton Invitational, to be held next weekend at UC San Diego’s beautiful Canyonview Aquatic Center. There will be many interesting match-ups as teams including Long Beach State, Michigan, Pomona-Pitzer, San Diego State, UC-Davis, UC-Irvine, UCLA, UC-Santa Barbara, USC and others will flock to one of the nation’s most beautiful locales.

1) USC (2-0); The Trojans opened the defense of their 2021 NCAA title with matches against two DIII programs whose total enrollment could just about fit in the seats at Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Claremont-Mudd-Scripts (1,200 students) and Occidental (2,000 students) would be a standing room-only affair at USC’s stately home pool (seats 2,500—not including the band and cheerleaders). But Athena and Tiger fans would not pay to see the blow-out losses, by an aggregate score of 64-6. Paige Hauschild, one of Head Coach Marko Pintaric’s three returning Olympians, mercifully scored only six times. Tilly Kearns—on Australia’s Olympic roster—hit for 10. Next up for the Trojans, some stiffer competition: #8 Fresno State today at Uytengsu and then a cross-town trip to UCLA on Saturday for #11 San Jose State and a scrimmage with the Bruins.

Makenzie Fischer not only picked up for Stanford where she left off, she’s WAY better! Photo: Catharyn Hayne

2) Stanford (4-0); Head Coach John Tanner’s crew has already beaten a top-10 opponent—#6 Michigan—and exhibited the traits that mark them as the prime contender for the Trojan’s crown. Strong defense, excellent goaltending—sophomore Maya Avital may be Tanner’s best option in the Cardinal nets—and superlative scoring. Case in point; in three matches Makenzie Fischer, returned from the Tokyo Games, scored 12 goals on 19 shots. This weekend Stanford hosts #9 Arizona State, #4 Cal, Fresno Pacific and #18 San Diego State in the Stanford Invitational.

3) UCLA (9-0); The Bruins are off to a fast start, having beaten six ranked opponents over two weekends, including #6 Michigan last weekend in Ann Arbor. And red-shirt senior Maddie Musselman has been everything Head Coach Adam Wright could have asked for: 23 goals (on 39 shots) and senior leadership to freshmen Emma Lineback, Molly Renner, Grace Myers and Nicole Struss. Is an Olympian with a great supporting cast enough to overcome the Trojans or the Cardinal? One clue will come this weekend when USC and UCLA scrimmage at Spieker.

4) Cal-Berkeley (8-0); The Golden Bears have also been busy during the season’s first two weeks, facing eight ranked opponents—including four from the top ten–and beating them all. Head Coach Coralie Simmons has two returning Olympians— Kitty Lynn Joustra (The Netherlands) and Emma Wright (Canada)—but it’s goalie Isabel Simmons who has made the biggest impression. A junior from Maryland, Simmons has appeared in all of Cal’s games and has already notched 69 saves. This week features a huge non-conference test: Stanford and Arizona State at Avery Aquatic Center.

5) Michigan (5-3); It might be surprising that the nation’s fifth-ranked team already has three losses. But consider who the Wolverines have lost to (all ranked ahead of them in the polls): Stanford, UCLA and Cal. They’ve already had some big wins—including a stunning OT victory over Arizona State two weeks ago in Tempe. What’s next for Head Coach Marcelo Leonardi’s team is a well-deserved rest and then a trip to sunny San Diego next weekend for the Triton Invitational at UCSD.

6) Hawai’i (3-1); The Rainbow Wahine was another victim of the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Otherwise, Head Coach Maureen Cole’s team fared well very far from home, with wins over Indiana, Michigan and Salem. There’s a stop/go quality to Hawai’i’s season; they were meant to open with four matches mid-January at home, but COVID-19 changed that. Now Cole and her team have to wait again—until next week when they’ll join Michigan and many others at the Triton Invitational.

7) UC-Irvine (2-2); One surprising loss to Michigan dumped the Anteaters down to 7th, where they’ve sat for two weeks as they didn’t compete last weekend. Barring any shocking upsets Head Coach Dan Klatt’s team will stay where they are; UCI plays Azusa Pacific and Concordia at home on Saturday.

8) Fresno State (3-5); Another team with a number of early-season losses that are entirely justified, the Bulldogs have lost to Cal twice, Michigan and UC-Irvine. They also dropped a one-goal decision to San Jose State; the net result is that Head Coach Natalie Benson’s team has jumped two spots in the polls since opening at #10. The biggest reason is FSU’s opening day win against host Arizona State, then ranked #4.

Natalie Benson is right in the middle of Fresno State success. Photo: Fresno State Athletics

9) Arizona State (2-4); The Sun Devils bounced back from dropping all four games at home on their opening weekend of play, sweeping Loyola Marymount twice at home last weekend. Now comes non-conference matches against Stanford and Cal—ASU’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) rivals. Mix in #10 UC-Davis and this is a very tough weekend for Head Coach Todd Clapper’s squad.

10) UC-Davis (5-1); The best Aggie start since 2007 likely has Head Coach Jamey Wright and his team is eager for more—especially after big wins against ranked opponents Long Beach State, Pacific and San Jose State. Now comes the hard part; a trip down the coast to Palo Alto and the Stanford Invitational; waiting for UCD at Avery are the Sun Devils of ASU and the Golden Bears of Cal.

11) San Jose State (6-3); Another team enjoying a great start are the Spartans. With wins over Fresno State, Pacific and UC-Santa Barbara—and a narrow loss to UC-Davis—Head Coach Beth Harberts is realizing tangible success in her third year at San Jose. Which is all relative when your squad competes in the MPSF, starting tomorrow, conference reality sets in. First, UCLA at Spieker today in an MPSF tilt, then USC on Saturday, in a non-conference match followed by Fresno State. Ouch!

12) UC-San Diego (4-2); A tough opening-day loss to Wagner was but a stumble for the Tritons. They also lost to UCLA but beat the Spartans and Princeton. A rest this weekend leads to their own tournament next Saturday and Sunday; Head Coach Brad Kreutzkamp has circled Saturday’s game because it’s against cross-town rival San Diego State.

13) Long Beach State (3-3); The 49ers are a tale of two weekends; on their opening one they swept two DIII teams from the SCIAC; last weekend they went 1-3 against DI opponents, beating Pacific and losing to Cal, Fresno State and UC-Davis. They too will rest up for the Triton Invitational next weekend.

14) Wagner College (6-2); A winning weekend at the Bucknell Invitational has the Seahawks flying high; this is the highest they’ve been in the CWPA poll since an all-time best position of #13 in 2018. Currently Wagner has the top team in the East, and Head Coach Ciaran Wolohan will want to stay right there with games this weekend in Providence at the Bruno Classic. Hurdles ahead include Harvard and Cal Baptist—both of whom received votes in this week’s poll.

UCSB’s Serela Kay has deflected questions about her program by winning. Photo: UCSB Athletics

15 (T) UC-Santa Barbara (7-2); for a team that has received unwanted scrutiny due to a significant departure of players from last year—one which featured a premature ending to their season due to COVID-19—the Gauchos are doing quite well, thank you. Head Coach Serela Kay has guided her team to it’s best January record since she arrived in Santa Barbara in 2014—and she’s done it without senior attacker Amanda Legaspi, who has yet to play this season. For an encore, the Gauchos will rest a week and then travel to San Diego for the Triton Invitational.

15 (T) Pacific (0-4); In case one is moved to concern about the slow start for Head Coach James Graham’s squad, consider that the only thing that matters is if the Tigers qualify for NCAAs—which they did for three straight seasons (2017-19) before COVID wiped out 2020 and impacted 2021. With a roster chock-full of players from all over the globe—including Clara Vulpisi, Brianna Utas and Lucy Davis, all of whom have experience with the Canadian national team—Graham and his squad will be in the mix for a GCC title by season’s end.

17) Long Island University (2-2); It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the Sharks’ stunning upset of then-#10 Indiana at last week’s Michigan Invitational. For a program in its third year of existence, to travel West and beat a Top Ten is a spectacular accomplishment—and they earned a measure of respect from some of the country’s best. Head Coach Gabby Juarez’s team hopes to continue a strong opening to year three this weekend in Providence, where they will face host Brown and St. Francis University.

[UCLA Women’s Water Polo Faces New Opponents in Growing Collegiate Sport]

18 (T) Indiana (5-3); The Hoosiers, on the wrong side of a 14-9 match last week against the Sharks, has two weeks to regroup before a trip to California for the Fresno State Invite (February 19 – 20). There are a lot of positives for Head Coach Taylor Dodson to focus on, including a strong performance in Ann Arbor against MPSF rival UCLA and #6 Hawai’i. And, like many of the teams in the poll, it’s not how you start, it’s how you do in the postseason that matters most.

18 (T) San Diego State (0-0); Because of COVID concerns, the Aztecs have yet to play a game this season—meaning there’s no ramp in for this weekend’s matches against Stanford and Arizona State at Avery Aquatic Center. Polo is a sink or swim proposition, and Head Coach Carin Crawford—now in her 22nd year leading San Diego State—knows that better than anyone.

18 (T) Loyola Marymount (2-2); The Lions were the third of the three teams to participate in the Rainbow Invitational at Hawai’i, what would have been the season opener for 2022. Alas, Head Coach Kyle Witt’s squad lost its attempt at an early start to the season; they will go into next week’s Triton Invite with less matches than everyone else but ready for action.

Jovana Sekulic, Princeton’s fantastic frosh, will be ready for next week’s tournament. Photo: Princeton Athletics

21) Princeton (3-2); After a strong start to their season two weekends ago at the UCSB Winter Invite, the Tigers came home for a win over La Salle last week in Philadelphia. Tonight they’ll play Villanova (again in Philly) as a tune-up to hosting nine teams at home next weekend.

22) Harvard (2-0); The Crimson doubled up Villanova last weekend to start their season. This weekend they travel down Interstate 95 t for the Bruno Classic, where tougher competition awaits, including #14 Wagner, #24 Cal Baptist, La Salle and Pomona-Pitzer.

23) Marist (0-3); As they have in years past, the Red Foxes are starting slow, with matches against some of the top teams in the country. The results were not pretty; a 22-5 loss to #2 Stanford and 20-4 defeat inflicted by #6 Hawai’i. The competition in Providence this weekend will be significantly easier to manage: Pomona-Pitzer and St. Francis University.

24 (T) Bucknell (2-1); The Bison enjoyed success last weekend at their own invite, with a big loss to Wagner their only blemish. Head Coach John McBride’s squad gets back in action next weekend at Princeton.

24 (T) Cal-Baptist (2-4); One of two Californian teams traveling to Providence for this weekend’s Brown tournament—Pomona-Pitzer is the other—the Lancers will see how they compare against Eastern programs, including host Brown, Harvard, La Salle and big, bad Wagner.