Pullman, WA -- It was a tense final minute and a half with only one goal separating the teams. But the University of Washington Women's Water Polo Club was able to hold off the University of Oregon, downing the Ducks, 7-6, to win the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Northwest Division title on Sunday, at Washington State University in Pullman. The win secures their first berth to the National Championships since 2003, where the Huskies will square off against the 15 other best collegiate club teams throughout the country. This year's Championships will be held at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California on May 6-8th.
The Huskies finished 10-1 in the division and will hold the #8 national seed in Santa Cruz. After going 3-8 the year before and back to back 5th place finishes in 2015 and 2014, it'd be fair to say no one saw this coming...well except for the Huskies.
"Winning the Northwest Division title has been an accumulation of a year and a half of hard work and determination from both the team and coaches," said co-captain and nominee for division MVP, Danielle Flanagan (#4, Menlo Park, CA). "We put everything we had into this past weekend and it paid off."
So what changed?
As head coach Rudy Ramirez says, It all began with a shift in culture and having some pretty amazing people at the core of the team.
"I remember sitting down with team leadership when I first came to the program," coach Ramirez recalls. "And what I saw was an enthusiastic, talented group of ladies that wanted to play hard and be competitive in a very tough division. So we agreed to a change in team philosophy, and we created a culture that at its core was to encourage each and every single person to put up the best effort that they were capable of producing. That would be our measure of success and if we stayed true to it, then the wins would follow."