Gresham, OR -- The University of Washington Women's Water Polo Club had an incredible weekend in their first Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) conference tournament. Hosted by Portland State University and held at Mt. Hood Community College on February 27-28th in Gresham, OR, the tournament featured all seven teams from the CWPA Northwest conference.
The Huskies went 3-1 for the first time in a CWPA tournament in as many seasons as any of the veteran players can remember; and has signaled a real turnaround for the program. This momentum has been building since the beginning of last season, and is now starting to show results.
"This past weekend's tournament was a great start to our season," said Co-Captain, Danielle Flanagan. "Our team has been working hard over the past months and this weekend proved that we have made incredible gains. Each player was crucial to our success this weekend and the development of our team could clearly be seen in the pool."
The Huskies first match was against Western Washington University. Battling nerves and an early morning travel schedule, the score was 4-4 at the end of the 1st quarter. But after an adjustment and a few calming words from the coaching staff, the Huskies came out firing in the 2nd quarter, outscoring the Vikings 7-1 and making the score 11-5 at the half. The Huskies never looked back and put up another seven making the final score 18-6. Goalie, Elizabeth Lipps (#1A/13, Menlo Park,CA) was "Player of the Game" making 11 saves over 3 quarters and 5 assists on the counterattack.
Next up was Oregon B, where the Huskies were more than ready and came out with a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. The final score was 11-5 Huskies, and all 17 players on the UW team were able to get quality minutes in and play. "Player of the Game" was freshman, Mary Elizabeth Ward (#6, San Rafael, CA) who led with 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 goals.
On Sunday, the Huskies played host and perennial conference powerhouse, Portland State University. The strength and development of the Huskies really showed in this match-up where the Dawgs began the game with a defense first approach. They allowed only two goals against at the half and only 5 total leading to a final score of 13-5, Huskies.
Danielle Flanagan once again led the offense with 7 goals total and 4 assists and was Player of the Game. Mary Elizabeth Ward adding another 3 goals and 2 assists, Kellie MacPhee (#2, Encinitas, CA), Taylor Lavine (#9, Auburn, WA), and Jaron Reed (#15 Edmonds, WA) each adding 1 goal as well. Lavine also had 4 assists.
The Huskies finished the tournament with their biggest match yet against last year's conference champion, University of Oregon A. Both teams entered the final match 3-0 for the weekend and would serve as an early test to see how this year's conference will stack up.
The Ducks were ready to play from the start and shot 3 unanswered goals in 4 minutes and earned two ejections against starting 2-meter defender, Kellie MacPhee. After a timeout by head coach, Rudy Ramirez, the Huskies answered back with an earned ejection and a goal on the power play by Flanagan to make it 3-1. The other goal came 40 seconds later from Flanagan again to make it 3-2. The Ducks countered with one more by Sophie Gemelas #6, to make it 4-2. But Flanagan struck again with 3 seconds left in the quarter to complete a hat trick making it 4-3 to end the first quarter.
The Ducks came out ready again in the 2nd quarter putting in another 3 unanswered goals, 2 by Emily England (#2) and one by Brett Higgins (#9). The Ducks further increased their lead in the 3rd quarter by adding another 4 with only 2 from the Huskies making the score 11-5 entering the 4th quarter. However, the Huskies were determined to fight back and made a great comeback in the final quarter. Mary-Elizabeth Ward put two away both off power-plays and Lacy Chun (#11, Hau'ula, HI) added two more from outside shots after being left open for a drop defense. Jaron Reed also tallied one. In the end it was too late to overcome the early goals by the Ducks and the final score was 14-10. Player of the Game was Lacy Chun, after her 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 goals.
The unsung hero of the match was freshman, Jalene Weatherholt (#17, San Jose, CA) who stepped up the 2-meter defense job after the Huskies got into early foul trouble in the first quarter. She shut down the 2-meter offense and earned only a single ejection against her. All-in-all it was great match for the Dawgs and an early test to help drive them for the season. Head Coach, Rudy Ramirez, didn't even let the loss blemish what he considered was a perfect weekend.
"From the beginning I have told these players, our measure of success for the season will not be the numbers of wins and losses," said Ramirez. "But rather that each of us plays to the best of which we are capable of doing. You can't ask for more than that. They played very well and will only get better from here."
Assistant Head Coach, Gregory Mercer added, "We have some work to do that's for sure, but you couldn't have asked for a better weekend. They're playing hard, doing what they're supposed to do, and most important of all, they look like they're really have fun out there."
The Huskies will be back at it again this upcoming weekend. The second CWPA conference tournament will be in Corvallis, Oregon at the Osborn Aquatic Center, March 5-6th. You can see the full UW schedule here.