Seattle, WA -- For the third year in a row, the University of Washington Huskies have won the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Northwest Division Championship and have qualified for their third consecutive appearance at the Collegiate Club National Championships. This year's championships are also hosted by the Huskies and will be held this upcoming weekend, May 4th-6th at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon.
The Huskies qualified after an 8-5 win over their arch-rival the University of Oregon in the Northwest Division Championship game held on April 15th in Corvallis, Oregon. The win was the 30th consecutive division victory for the #6 Huskies who haven't lost since January, 2016. The Dawgs are 18-5 overall for the year are currently ranked #6 nationally.
After last year’s disappointing close loss to Ohio State and a 7th place finish in the 2017 Collegiate Club National Championships, the #6 Huskies have been on a tear this year and are looking to make a deep run. The team is led by new captains Mary Elizabeth Ward (#6, San Rafael, CA) and Kellie MacPhee (#2, Encinitas, CA).
The Huskies, who embrace a defense first philosophy, are anchored by last year’s MVP and goalie, Lizzy Lipps (#1, Menlo Park, CA), as well as by field players Jalene Weatherholt (#17, San Jose, CA), Maddie Joy (#14, Puyallup, WA), and Kellie MacPhee, who have all contributed on defense to allow only 44 goals from their Northwest opponents.
In addition, the Husky offense has been bolstered by newcomers Anastasia Bondarenko (#12, Bellevue, WA), Natalie Erjavec (#7, Mountain View, CA), and Kacey Kuchenbecker (#19, Kaneohe, HI), aiding offensive cornerstones Lauren Hickey (#10, Palos Verdes, CA), Mary Elizabeth Ward, and Karli Stevenson, (#4, Tacoma, WA). In total, the team has produced 195 goals in the division, setting a new program record. Drivers Margaret Lazzarini, (#15, San Marino, CA) and Jacqueline Li (#3, Mercer Island, WA) are also back, helping the Huskies to dominate on both ends of the pool.
Coaches Rudy Ramirez (4th year) and Gregory Mercer (3rd year) have also returned, leading the incredibly balanced Huskies to their success in the Northwest Division, and towards their goal of a top-4 finish this year at the championships.
"For the last 7 months, we have been practicing and working hard towards this weekend, and now that it is finally here, we could not be more excited and ready to have another opportunity to compete at the highest level for collegiate club water polo," said co-captain, Mary Elizabeth Ward. "We are really excited to be hosting, and it's a great opportunity for all of those friends and family members who have supported us all this time, to finally get a chance to see us compete against the best here in the Northwest. Can't wait to get started!"
The Huskies have also continued their tradition of merging both their "A" and "B" team to compete at the championships, and with 26 players on the roster, this is the Huskies largest team yet making an appearance.
"I think its really important to bring everyone from our team that wants to go," said head coach, Rudy Ramirez. "It part of our team-first philosophy. Everyone has a role on this team. Whether you're a starter on "A", or learning polo for the first time, everyone contributed to making this incredible season happen, and therefore should reap the rewards and benefit of being invited to these high-level competitions."
The Huskies begin their National Championships run, Friday, May 4th, at 4pm PST as the #7 seed against the #10 seed Penn State. Penn State (ranked #5 nationally) went undefeated in the regular season and so will be a tough first round match for the Huskies. With a win, the Huskies will advance to play #2 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, May 5th, at 11:20 am PST. All games are streaming. this weekend through the CWPA. Check out the details below on how to catch all the action from this weekend.
Collegiate Club National Championships, hosted by the University of Washington. The host school plus the winners of each of the 15 divisions across the country will square off to decide the national champion. The Huskies are seeded #7 of 16 based off of their 2-2 performance at the championships last year.
Who are they playing?
The #7 Huskies will be playing #10 Penn State University Friday, May 5th at 4pm PST. Winner continues on to the winner bracket against #2 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, May 6th at 11:20 PST. Full schedule is available here.
How to watch?
The Collegiate Water Polo Association will be streaming all games over the weekend for $10 a game, or $25 to get every match of the tournament. You can also follow the CWPA on Twitter who will be live tweeting each of the matches including the Huskies. For color commentary, follow the Huskies on Twitter to see the amazing Tweet skills of Katie Snell. You can also read up on the Huskies performance as they will be putting a blog post up after each match on their website and Facebook.
Who to look out for?
Offensive powerhouses: Karli Stevenson, Lauren Hickey and Mary Elizabeth Ward. Look for Hickey to absolutely dominate players in center while Stevenson and Ward line up on the
outside. Stevenson has broken the single season goal record at the UW and looks to continue her streak.
Defensive stalwarts: Jalene Weatherholt, Kellie MacPhee, Maddie Joy, Lizzy Lipps. Look for the tandem of Weatherholt and MacPhee to prevent anything from the opposing offense inside center. Joy is the team sprinter and will be harassing players on the outside while breaking for counterattack opportunities. This is goalie and current reigning Northwest Division MVP, Lizzy Lipps's last year with the team. The cornerstone of the Dawgs' defense is graduating in June with a degree in Construction Management.
Lizzy had these words in regards to playing in her last tournament as a Husky, "I'm so proud to be part of a team that's come so far over the last five years! from 2 wins in my sophomore year to being nationally ranked and in our third consecutive appearance at nationals, its just unreal. Not very many teams or players get this opportunity, so I am extremely grateful for my time with this incredible team. I'm going to miss this so much. Go Dawgs!"
Newcomers: Anastasia "Bonda" Bondarenko, Kacey Kuchenbecker, and Natalie Erjavec. All three players are true utilities and capable of creating opportunities on offense while also contributing on the defensive side of the ball.
How you can help: Stream the games! By watching the stream and showing your support, it keeps the CWPA invested in showcasing our team and this sport. DONATE!!! We are still well short of our goal to be able to fund the hosting cost of championships as well as get much needed equipment for this program. All donations are tax deductible. Just go to the link and select "Water Polo- Women's" and contribute any amount that you can. Thank you again everyone for your support!