Davis, CA -- This past weekend, the University of Washington Huskies competed for their first time ever at the Davis Invitational and went 3-1 to mark a very successful tournament for the #7 team in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) preseason national club poll. The Huskies came to the tournament looking to compete against the tough California teams they rarely get a chance to play outside of the National Championships.
The Huskies 3-1 mark included, wins against Chico State (14-3), UC San Diego (13-4), UC Davis B (9-3), and a loss against last year's National Champion and this year's #1 ranked team, UC Davis A (3-10).
The Huskies started out the tournament playing against a very strong and physical Chico State team. It was slow start for the Huskies, who allowed the opening goal against them, in less than two minutes into the first quarter. But before the quarter's end, Karli Stevenson (#4, Tacoma, WA) tied it up to end the first quarter 1-1. After seeing the physicality and strength of the Chico Sate team, UW coaches Rudy Ramirez and Mark Garrett made a major shift in gameplan before the start of the second quarter. With a new emphasis on the counterattack, the Huskies
outscored the Wildcats 7-1 with 2 more goals from Stevenson and another 2 from Mary Elizabeth Ward (#6, San Rafael, CA) as well as 1 more each from Stevenson, Ward, and sophomore newcomer, Anastasia Bondarenko (#12, Bellevue, WA) from the field to end the half 8-1, Huskies.
The Huskies would go on to finish the game 14-3, behind the offensive efforts of Stevenson (6 goals), Ward (6 goals), and Bondarenko (2 goals); and major defensive help from goalie and last year's Northwest Division Most Valuable Player of the Year, Elizabeth Lipps (#1, Menlo Park, CA).
Later in the day, the Huskies would take on another tough opponent from California, the UC San Diego Tritons. But this time, fueled by their earlier win, the Huskies came out swinging and went up in the first quarter 3-1, with goals once again coming from Ward and Stevenson. The Dawgs jumped out to an even bigger lead in the second, with two center shots from starting center, Lauren Hickey (#10, Palos Verdes, CA), and one each from two more new-comers, Bayla Forman (#9, Long Beach, CA) and Sophia Ko (#13, Puyallup, WA).
The Huskies won the game 13-4 due to a monstrous defensive effort with 17 steals including: 4 from Jalene Weatherholt (#17, San Jose, CA), 3 from Stevenson, 2 each from Katie Snell, (#8, Cupertino, CA), and Kellie MacPhee (#2, Encinitas, CA), and 1 each from Brooke Hill (#16, Bothell, WA), Tiara Adler (#16, Seattle, WA), Maddie Joy (#14, Edgewater, WA), Natalie Erjavec (#7, Mountain View, CA), Hickey, Ward, and Lipps.
The next day of the tournament, the Huskies would be facing their biggest challenge of the preseason yet, a home pool game against #1 UC Davis A. The Huskies would finally meet their match with the Aggies taking a 5-1 lead in the first quarter with the lone goal coming from Bondarenko from way outside. However, the Huskies doubled down on defense in the second quarter, and kept their passing mistakes in check that led to the goals in the first quarter, to match the Aggies, 2-2 in the second quarter, behind goals from Ward from outside and Stevenson from the center position. But this would be the last time the Huskies scored, as the Aggies continued to add 2 goals in the third and 1 in the 4th to lead to a final score of 10-3.
Despite the loss, the Huskies gained valuable experience going against the #1 team in the country. After the 1st quarter blowout, the Huskies were able to change their defensive scheme and slow down the Aggies' offense for the rest of the game, along with Lipps finishing with 17 saves.
"It was great to finally have a chance to play some of the best club teams in the country and see how we match up with them," said co-captain, Mary Elizabeth Ward. "Getting a chance to play Davis here in a fun game, has only increased our excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season. It showed with a bit more practice and continued hard work, we're able to compete with the best."
The Huskies would end the tournament playing UC Davis B. After going up 4-0 in the first quarter behind 3 goals from Stevenson and 1 from Jacqueline Li (#3, Mercer Island, WA), the Dawgs were able to get the rest of the 23 player roster, valuable minutes. The substitution changes paid off with ejections earned from MacPhee, Erjavec, Snell, and Forman. 5 assists total were also made from Erjavec, Snell, Bondarenko (2) and Joy. Steals were once again a hallmark of the Husky defense with a total of 11 and led by goalie, Elizabeth Lipps with 4. The Huskies would finish the game 9-3 and end the tournament with a 3-1 finish.
Feelings were at a high with the overall success of the tournament.
"It was a lot of fun challenging ourselves against the talented California teams this weekend," said co-captain, Kellie MacPhee. "Our team gets closer and more in sync with every game we play, and I think we proved that we're ready to take on anyone this year, including the top teams in the country."
The team goal was to get much needed competitive matches in before the start of division play in two weeks. But it wasn't all business, the tournament provided numerous opportunities for the 12 new players to hang out with the team veterans and see what it's all about to be on this incredible club team at the University of Washington. Their were numerous In-N-Out meals had, as well as hangs out with each others families from the area, and getting some much needed time in the sun that stays so elusive in Seattle. Overall, a very good weekend for this very talented team.
The Huskies will be hosting the first tournament of the CWPA Northwest Division at Rogers High School in Puyallup, WA on February 17-18th. You can see their schedule here for game times for both UW A and UW B.
Based on their body of work this weekend, the Huskies are primed to go for their third consecutive title in the Northwest Division this year. Stay tuned.