Ryan Chartrand

After placing fifth nationally last year, the Cal Poly women’s water polo club team bounced back this season to clinch a second-place finish nationally and first regionally.

This happened after a somewhat difficult start, which led to a decision mid-season to fire head coach Laura Kurska and replace her with Matt Andrews, a 2006 Cal Poly graduate and former Mustang men’s water polo player.

“We got off to a rocky start,” said Liz Jenkins, the club’s treasurer. “We were looking for a new coach. But it worked out better to keep the Cal Poly blood, to find someone who knew how the team worked. We were lucky to find someone who had been on the men’s water polo team.”

Andrews was named Coach of the Year in the Pacific Coast region.

League MVP honors went to club president Amanda Calhoun. Four players – Calhoun, Jenkins, Colleen Scheitrum and Elisa Hooper – were named to the national collegiate club championship’s first team. Kiki Miller and Roxanne Eastwood were named to the second team.

The team held two tournaments at Cal Poly and one at Cuesta College. It also traveled to Ohio and other schools within the Pacific Coast region, which includes other universities located in California.

Earlier this month, the Mustangs traveled to Williamstown, Mass., where they played in the national championships May 9. The team placed second, losing only to Fresno State.

The only other game the team lost this season – during a home tournament from Feb. 3 to 4 – was also to Fresno State.

“They’ve always been our rivals, so it was hard losing to them,” Calhoun said.

As a club team, the players manage everything from finances to team traveling arrangements themselves. They also have to pay $400 to play, Calhoun said.

About 30 players were on this year’s team, with only 12 traveling to games.

Calhoun and Jenkins agreed that the season was particularly enjoyable compared to years in the past.

“This was one of the most fun years we’ve had,” Calhoun said. “Last year was a hard year – we got fifth at nationals and there was a lot of turmoil within our team. This year we all had a lot of fun, and that’s the most important thing. That’s really why we’re here – to have fun and because we love playing.”

The team also received extra support this year.

“This was one of the first times the men’s and women’s teams really supported each other,” Jenkins said. “They came out and supported us, and we’re going to do the same in the fall.”

Cal Poly will lose four starters to graduation, which means next year could be a rebuilding year or a repeat performance, Jenkins said.

“They have the potential to do just as well,” she said.

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