Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Womens College Water Polo
jeff
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Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby jeff » Thu May 12, 2022 10:28 pm

At the request of several of our colleagues, I will conduct a mock tournament featuring the all-time women’s teams from Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC, and all of the other colleges combined. Cal will face the all-star team from the other colleges in the play-in game. The winner of that game will face Stanford’s all-time team in one of the semifinal games. The other semifinal game will feature the all-time teams from UCLA and USC.

Each of my five teams will be comprised of two goalies, 11 field players, and one coach (two coaches in UCLA’s case). To qualify as a player for one of my five teams (and for my all-time American team), an individual must have played varsity college water polo for at least one year during the period from 1995 to the present.

When choosing players for my teams, I considered an individual's high school, college, and post-college (if any) careers. The Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) has chosen women’s All-American teams since 1995. For each player on one of my teams, I list the number of times the player was named to an ACWPC All-American team (at any level). Because there is a significant difference between being named a 1st team All-American and an honorable mention All-American, I also list the number of times a player was named a 1st team All-American. Where applicable, I state that a player was an NCAA champion, an NCAA Player of the Year, a Cutino Award winner (the Olympic Club established the Cutino Award in 1999), an Olympian, and/or inducted into the Water Polo Hall of Fame. These are among the factors I considered when selecting my teams.

To even the playing field and help ensure that players from one era don’t get an unfair advantage because of the rules, the first quarter of my hypothetical games will be played using the rules generally in effect from 1995 through 2000, the second quarter will be played using the rules generally in effect from 2001 through 2008, and so on.

Here is a list showing when some of the varsity women’s water polo programs were established:

Harvard - 1984 (the 1983-84 school year)
UCSD - 1985
Slippery Rock University - 1991
UCLA, USC, and San Diego State - 1995
Stanford, Cal, UCSB, and Pacific - 1996
U.C. Davis and Princeton - 1997
Hawaii, LBSU, Indiana, and San Jose State - 1998
Brown - 1999
Michigan and U.C. Irvine - 2001
Arizona State - 2002

Some of these colleges (and other colleges not listed) had club women’s water polo teams before the dates shown above.

The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) recognized women’s varsity water polo during the 1995-96 school year. From 1995 through 2000, some of the college coaches organized an unofficial national collegiate championship tournament. There were eight teams in the 1995 and 1996 tournaments. These teams were a combination of varsity and club teams. In 1997, the unofficial championship tournament was expanded to 16 teams. At about this time, all of the teams participating in the unofficial tournament were varsity teams. Slippery Rock University won the unofficial championship in 1995. USC won in 1999. UCLA won in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000.

The NCAA recognized women’s water polo as an official varsity sport in the 2000-01 school year and the first NCAA championship tournament was held in 2001. In men’s college water polo, we often speak of a “Big 4” (Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC). In women’s college water polo there is a “Big 3” (Stanford, UCLA, and USC). Cal is usually the fourth best team in the country. Hawaii, Arizona State, Michigan, U.C. Davis, and U.C. Irvine are often in the top 10.

Here is a list of the NCAA champions from 2001 through 2022:

2001 - UCLA
2002 - Stanford
2003 - UCLA
2004 - USC
2005 - UCLA
2006 - UCLA
2007 - UCLA
2008 - UCLA
2009 - UCLA
2010 - USC
2011 - Stanford
2012 – Stanford
2013 - USC
2014 - Stanford
2015 - Stanford
2016 - USC
2017 - Stanford
2018 - USC
2019 - Stanford
2020 - No tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 - USC
2022 - Stanford

Loyola Marymount finished second in 2004. Cal finished second in 2011. Otherwise, no non-“Big 3” school has won or finished second in the NCAA tournament.

Here is my all-star team comprised of players from colleges other than Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Cal (probable starters listed first):

Ashleigh Johnson - goalie, Princeton. Johnson, from Florida, is the greatest female goalie in the world. She is a 4x All-American, 1x 1st team All American, Cutino Award winner, and 2x Olympian. If we were choosing an all-time, all-world team, Johnson would be my first choice. She will almost certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Rowena Webster - 2MD, Arizona State. Webster, an Australian, played for ASU in 2006. She scored 63 goals and was a 3rd team All-American. Webster is a 3x Olympian. In her prime, she was considered to be one of the best players in the world.

Heather Moody - center, San Diego State. Moody, from Idaho, played for San Diego State in 1996. She is a 1x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, 2x Olympian, 2x USA water polo player of the year, and member of the Hall of Fame.

Irene Gonzalez - attacker/2MD, Hawaii. Gonzalez, a Spaniard, is a 4x All-American, 2x 1st team All-American, and 1x Olympian.

lefke Van Belkum - attacker, Hawaii. Van Belkum, from the Netherlands, played for Hawaii in 2005 and 2006. She is a 2x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, and 1x Olympian. She was named the MPSF player of the year in 2006. Van Belkum’s Dutch team won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, beating the United States 9-8 in the championship game. Van Belkum is generally considered to be one of the best players of the 21st century.

Julie Swail - attacker, UCSD. Swail played for UCSD from 1992 through 1995 and was a 1st team All-American in 1995. She is a 1x Olympian and an exceptional athlete. In addition to being an Olympian in water polo, she was the captain of the 2008 U.S. Olympic triathlon team and was the world triathlon champion in 2002.

Marie Luc-Arpin - attacker, Hawaii. Luc-Arpin, a Canadian, played for Hawaii in 1998 and was a 1st team All-American, scoring 98 goals with a shooting percentage of 56.3 percent. She is a 2x Olympian.


Betsey Armstrong - goalie, Michigan. Armstrong, from Michigan, was considered to be the best goalie in the world during the late 2000s and early 2010s. She is a 4x All-American, 2x Olympian, and member of the Hall of Fame.

Bronwen Knox - center/2MD, Hartwick. Knox, an Australian, played for Hartwick in 2005 and 2006. In her two years at Hartwick, she scored 229 goals and had 57 assists and 209 steals. She is a 2x All-American, 4x Olympian, and 2x bronze medalist.

Rachel Scott - utility, San Diego State. Scott, from Washington, played for San Diego State from 1995 through 1998, serving as the team’s goalie in 1995 and then becoming a field-position player. Scott is a 3x All-American, 2x 1st team All-American, and was an alternate on the 2000 Olympic team.

Robbie Larson - utility, Slippery Rock University. Larson, from New Mexico, played for Slippery Rock University from 1994 through 1997. She is a 1x unofficial collegiate champion (1975), 3x All-American, and 2x 1st team All-American. Larson won the Player of the Year Award in 1995 and was a member of the senior national team.

Tara Prentice - utility, U.C. Irvine. Prentice is a 3x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, and member of the senior national team. She will be a 4x All-American after the ACWPC announces its 2022 All-American teams.

Monika Eggens - attacker, Hawaii. Eggens, a Canadian, is a 3x All-American, 2x 1st team All-American, and 1x Olympian. She scored 102 goals for Hawaii in 2013 with a shooting percentage of 49.8 percent.

Doc Hunkler - coach, Slippery Rock University. Hunkler, a professor of computer science and the longtime coach of the women’s and men’s water polo teams at Slippery Rock University, was one of the driving forces in the development of women’s water polo in the Unites States. He was also one of the founders of the Water Polo Planet website. Hunkler was inducted into the Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2000. He died at the age of 83 in 2019. For more information about Hunkler’s great career, see https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/n ... way-at-83/.

Up next, Cal’s all-time team.
Last edited by jeff on Sat May 14, 2022 10:39 am, edited 3 times in total.

DinsdalePiranha
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby DinsdalePiranha » Fri May 13, 2022 10:15 am

I might go with Addison McGrath over Gao
he nailed your head to the floor? Wol, e ad to, I ad transgressed the unwritten law...

Rational
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby Rational » Fri May 13, 2022 11:52 am

Gotta agree with DP that Gao is overrated. She wasn't a dominant center that turned people or was a scoring juggernaut - for the most part, she held position, flopped around, and drew exclusions. A decent talent, but not an all-timer.

Also - in 2004 UCLA redshirted 4 players for the Olympics which opened the door for USC and LMU

wpolo93
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby wpolo93 » Fri May 13, 2022 12:14 pm

jeff wrote:Heather Moody - center, San Diego State. Moody, from Idaho,


A minor detail but, I think, Moody grew up in Albuquerque, NM and played for Duke City Aquatics from Fall to Spring and for Modesto (coached by Brent Bohlender) during hs summers. She was born in Wyoming.

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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby SwimCoach » Fri May 13, 2022 1:47 pm

DinsdalePiranha wrote:I might go with Addison McGrath over Gao


For what it is worth, here is another vote for Addison McGrath. I know that jeff takes their entire careers into consideration, but I think that she was a better college player than Gao. In fact, I think that she was the best player to ever play at ASU.

DinsdalePiranha
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby DinsdalePiranha » Fri May 13, 2022 6:14 pm

One other thing jumps out at me, what happened at UCLA after 2009,

I know I say anyone could coach the women's national team because the talent is so deep here, AK is just icing on the cake

AK’s real legacy as a coach hits you right between the eyes, looking at the list of national championships, absolutely incredible run and immediate drop off
he nailed your head to the floor? Wol, e ad to, I ad transgressed the unwritten law...

jeff
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby jeff » Sat May 14, 2022 11:40 am

I appreciate the comments and suggestions. Please keep them coming.

Here are my thoughts. First, one person heavily involved with women's water polo reminded me that I had forgotten about Bronwen Knox, a center/2MD from Australia. Knox played for Hartwick in 2005 and 2006. She is a 2x All-American, 4x Olympian, and 2x bronze medalist. I should have selected Knox. She will take Ao Gao's place on the team. https://collegiatewaterpolo.org/hartwic ... australia/

Second, I seriously considered selecting ASU's Addison (Doud) McGrath for the team. If we were basing these selections strictly on a player's performance in high school and college, she should be on the team. As far as I can tell, however, McGrath did not play for the senior national "A" team and she is not an Olympian. I don't know whether this was by her choice. If I were to select McGrath at this point, she would take Tara Prentice's place. Your comments on this choice are welcome.

Third, Swimcoach, one of our most knowledgeable colleagues, believes McGrath is "the best player to ever play at ASU." If we consider just what a player did at ASU, I'd say McGrath and Mia Rycraw are ASU's two greatest players. If we consider a player's post-college career, Rowena Webster is ASU's best player. In addition to being a 3x Australian Olympian and a bronze medalist, Webster is a 2x FINA player-of-the-year finalist (2013 and 2014). Only a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player is considered to be one of the three best players in the world on two separate occasions. https://www.waterpoloaustralia.com.au/n ... e-webster/

Finally, most of the websites I checked show that Heather Moody was born in Rexburg, Idaho. I found one website that says she was born in Wyoming. Brent Bohlender, who may know more about American women's water polo than anyone, told me Moody was born in Idaho. If anyone knows for sure whether it's Idaho or Wyoming, please let me know.

wpolo93
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby wpolo93 » Sat May 14, 2022 12:07 pm

jeff wrote:
Finally, most of the websites I checked show that Heather Moody was born in Rexburg, Idaho. I found one website that says she was born in Wyoming. Brent Bohlender, who may know more about American women's water polo than anyone, told me Moody was born in Idaho. If anyone knows for sure whether it's Idaho or Wyoming, please let me know.


Jeff, Moody grew up in New Mexico. What is important is that she swam and played water polo in New Mexico and Modesto before college.
The place of birth is mostly irrelevant. There are some excellent water polo players from California who were born say on the East Coast and whose family moved to California when they were young. Does it matter? My point was that Moody was partially a California product :)

jeff
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby jeff » Sat May 14, 2022 1:23 pm

Understood. I'm noting the place of birth for the players who were not born in California because I find it interesting. Eleven of the 13 players on my all-other colleges team and the coach were not born in California. I was surprised by these numbers. If we repeated this exercise for men's college water polo all-star teams, I suspect there wouldn't be more than two players (Balazs Erdelyi and ?) on the all-other colleges team who weren't born in California and the coach (Ted Newland) was born in California. Query what explains the difference between the men's and women's teams.

jeff
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Re: Battle of the Top Women's College Programs

Postby jeff » Mon May 16, 2022 11:15 pm

Up next, my all-time Cal team.

Cal’s varsity women’s water polo team was established in 1996. Cal’s record from 1996 through 2022 is 549-225. Cal finished second in the unofficial national collegiate championship tournaments in 1996, 1997, and 1998, losing to UCLA in the championship game each year. UCLA lost one game in 1996, one game in 1997, and one game in 1998. Each of the losses was to Cal. During the NCAA era of women’s college water polo (2001 to the present), Cal has not won an NCAA championship, finished second in 2011, and made it to the semifinals in 2010, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. As I noted at the beginning of this thread, there is a “Big 3” in women’s college water polo (Stanford, UCLA, and USC). Cal is a distant fourth.

Some have asked why the Cal women’s water polo program has not approached the success of the men’s program. We could talk about this subject for hours but the short answer is that the men’s varsity program was started, and led for more than 20 years, by Pete Cutino, perhaps America’s greatest collegiate water polo coach. During the NCAA era of men’s college water polo (1969 to the present), Cal has had four coaches: Cutino, Steve Heaston, Peter Asch, and Kirk Everist. Cutino and Heaston are in the Hall of Fame. Everist is a Hall-of-Fame player and has won four NCAA championships as a coach. Since the women’s varsity program was established in 1996, Cal has had five coaches and none has held the position for more than 11 years.

Maureen O’Toole, considered by many to be America’s greatest female water polo player, was the first coach of Cal’s women’s varsity team. O’Toole coached Cal during the 1996, 1997, and 1998 seasons, compiling a record of 83-18. Cal finished second in the unofficial national collegiate championships in each of those years. Since O’Toole left Cal after the 1998 season, Cal has generally been unable to recruit the top American players. Cal has had four female water polo Olympians from the United States (Heather Petri, Ericka Lorenz, Courtney Johnson, and Elsie Windes). O’Toole coached and/or recruited Petri, Lorenz, and Johnson. Windes last played for Cal in 2007. Cal has had only five 1st team All-Americans from the United States (Lorenz, Johnson, Alisa vonHartitzsch, Colette Glinkowski, and Fana Fuqua). They all played for or were recruited by O’Toole. Fuqua was Cal’s last 1st team All-American from the United States. She played for Cal from 1998 through 2001. (I expect Isabel Williams, Cal’s current goalie, to be named a 1st or 2nd team 2022 All-American by the ACWPC.) Unlike Cutino, whose early success at Cal was attributable (in no small part) to his ability to recruit the best players from Cal’s backyard (Cal’s first NCAA championship team featured four players from Miramonte and one from Campolindo), O’Toole’s successors haven’t been able to recruit the top players from Contra Costa County. For example, in recent years, Maggie Steffens, Jessica Steffens, Melissa Seidemann, Jewel Roemer, Kat Klass, and Sarah Klass chose to attend Stanford, and Ava Johnson chose UCLA.

The coach of a “Big 4” men’s college program told me there were three or four “elite” American players in a typical high school year and he needed to recruit at least one of them to compete for national titles. The Cal women’s program won’t consistently challenge Stanford, UCLA, and USC until it recruits its fair share of the elite American players. Although that hasn’t happened since Maureen O’Toole left Cal, Cal fans shouldn’t give up hope. Just look at the other women’s team within Cal’s aquatics program. Since the 2008-09 school year, Cal’s women's swimming and diving team has won four NCAA championships and finished second four times.

Cal’s all-time team (probable starters listed first)

Fana Fuqua – goalie. Fuqua is a 2x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, and former member of the senior national team.

Elsie Windes – 2MD. Windes, from Portland, Oregon, is a 4x All-American, 2x Olympian, and member of the Hall of Fame.

Alisa vonHartitzsch – center. vonHartitzsch, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, played for Brown in 1995 and 1996 and Cal in 1997 and 1998. She is a 3x All-American, 2x 1st team All-American, and former member of the senior national team. vonHartitzsch scored 189 goals in her two years at Cal and holds Cal’s single-season scoring record with 119 goals in 1997.

Ericka Lorenz – attacker. Lorenz played for Cal in 2001 and 2002. She is a 2x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, 2x Olympian (2000 and 2004), and member of the Hall of Fame. Coralie Simmons on Lorenz: "She was an anomaly in terms of just being so explosive and powerful and having talent that the game maybe hadn't seen yet. Whether it be her speed, her strength or her offensive capabilities, she was above and beyond where the game was at that point. She was one of the best shooters in the world and really fun to play with.” Injuries kept Lorenz from earning a spot on the 2008 Olympic team.

Heather Petri – attacker. Petri is a 2x All-American, 4x Olympian, and member of the Hall of Fame.

Doral Antal – attacker. Antal, a Hungarian, is a 4x 1st team All-American and 2x Olympian. Antal is Cal’s all-time leading scorer with 243 goals. She is a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player.

Courtney Johnson – attacker. Johnson, from Salt Lake City, Utah, played varsity water polo for Cal in 1996 and club water polo for Cal in 1993, 1994, and 1995. She was a 1st team All-American in her only year of varsity water polo and played on the 2000 Olympic team.


Isabel Williams – goalie. Williams, from Maryland, completed her first year as a starter for Cal in 2022. She has two years of eligibility remaining. Williams was the 1st team all-MPSF goalie in 2022 and is likely to be named the 1st or 2nd team goalie on the 2022 ACWPC All-American team. Barring injuries, she should play for the senior national team.

Kitty Lynn Joustra – center. Joustra, from the Netherlands, is a 3x All-American, 1x 1st team All-American, and 1x Olympian. I expect her to be a 4x All-American after the ACWPC announces its 2022 All-American teams.

Roser Tarrago – attacker. Tarrago, a Spaniard, played for Cal in 2014 and 2015. She is a 2x All-American and 3x Olympian.

Anna Illes – attacker. Illes, a Hungarian, is a 4x All-American and 2x Olympian.

Emily Csikos – attacker. Csikos, a Canadian, is a 4x All-American, 2x 1st team All-American, and former member of the Canadian senior national team. She was a Cutino Award finalist in 2011.

Emma Wright – LH attacker. Wright, a Canadian, is a 3x All-American and 1x Olympian. I expect her to be a 4x All-American after the ACWPC announces its 2022 All-American teams.

Maureen O’Toole - coach.

Of the 13 players on my all-time Cal team, three are from California, four are from states other than California, and six are from other countries.

Up next, my all-time Stanford team.

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