The Cal Poly women’s water polo club team won its seventh consecutive division championship April 17, earning a spot in the 2011 National Collegiate Club Championship.
The Mustangs jumped out to an 8-2 lead and cruised to victory against UCLA at the Anderson Aquatics Center to continue a 12-game win streak.
Coach and civil engineering senior Joshua Combs said the game was the team’s best yet. In addition to its defense shutting down UCLA, he credits the win to the team’s patience on offense.
“On games before, sometimes their decision making got a little iffy, but they came out of this game (with) very few mistakes,” Combs said. “They made UCLA play defense for the full 35-second shot clock and wore them down. They scheduled a great day to step it up, and now they have another Pacific Coast title.”
The Pacific Coast Division consists of Cal Poly and eight other universities, and with UCLA having an “A” and “B” team, this makes for 10 teams in the division.
In addition to 10 Pacific Coast Championship titles, the Mustangs are the 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 National Champions. Now, the defending champions will strive to become the first team to have a fourth consecutive national title to add to its list of achievements.
Accomplishments include “Team of the Decade,” and the team is said to be statistically the most successful program in the history of women’s collegiate club water polo by the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA).
The women who make up the team also have individual awards to show for their hard work.
Biomedical engineering senior Sarah Ur has her own list of honors and awards. The team’s 2-meter hole set is the only person in history to receive three consecutive Pacific Coast Most Valuable Player awards and National Collegiate Club Championship Most Valuable Player awards. Earlier this month, she was also named Pacific Coast Division Player of the Week.
With all the local and national recognition, there is pressure to win, Ur said.
“There’s definitely quite a bit of expectations for us to do well because everybody is thinking we could win four in a row,” Ur said. “It’s like we’re not the underdog anymore; everyone is shooting for us.”
At Nationals, Cal Poly will face 15 other teams at the University of Notre Dame’s Rolfs Aquatics Center. The teams consist of the 14 division champions and the runner-up finishers for the hosting division, as well as the division of the last year’s champion.
Since Cal Poly is the returning champion, the runner-up of the Pacific Coast Division will also compete at Nationals. This means the Mustangs will battle the Bruins again — this time contending for a national title. It marks the fifth consecutive time UCLA will ride the berth to Nationals.
The recent capture of the division championship against UCLA acts as a confidence booster for the team, Ur said.
“I think that winning the division championships gives us a lot of momentum and confidence to go into our Nationals,” she said. “When we see (UCLA) again, we’ll be playing our hearts out because we know the potential we have. That was our best game to date, which is a great time in the season to be peaking.”
Along with Ur, journalism senior Erika Bigbie has been a starter since her freshman year. The driver and club president is an All-Conference and All-American player. For Bigbie, she said she sees the rematch as an opportunity to perform even better as a team.
“Regardless of who won this weekend in the final game, we’re going to see each other again at Nationals,” Bigbie said. “We know that (UCLA) could potentially go and be practicing the next few weeks and fix whatever mistakes they think they were making. But we’ve been working up to this moment all season. We played our best water polo this weekend, but the best water polo is still yet to be played — we’re not letting up at all.”
Cal Poly will return to action in South Bend, Ind., when the Mustangs begin their title defense of the National Collegiate Club Championship on May 6.