This Year’s Water Polo Team Might Be The Best We’ve Seen

Elmo Rey Arciaga

Amanda Zepeda

The team, which recently defeated Harvard and George Washington University, has a 16-7 overall record and an 8-1 record in the Western Water Polo Association.

The CSUEB water polo team is making a big splash in the pool onto their way to becoming the best water polo team that this school has ever seen.

With a 16-7 overall record, an 8-1 record in the WWPA (Western Water Polo Association) and insurmountable wins over the likes of Harvard and George Washington Universities, these lady Pioneers have quickly become a force to be reckoned with in CCAA Division II play.

Over the weekend, they put their talents on full display, dispatching all competition in a weekend sweep against CSU San Bernardino by a score of 13-7, Vanguard 20-3, and Fresno Pacific 11-5.

Friday’s victory against San Bernardino had a little extra significance for this tight-knit team, as it was the last home game of the season for six seniors.

Kendra Mason, Tristan Kennedy-Donohue, Liz Warren, Jenna Gelet, Danielle Comforti and Whitney Bell were all honored before the game in front of a large crowd at the Pioneer pool.

“We had a good conference win on senior day,” said Coach Cooper.

“Overall, we played a really good weekend and we just need to keep the ball rolling.”

In her ninth season as coach of the water polo team, Coach Cooper, a native of Australia, expressed that this group of girls is the best team that has ever come through this university.

Leading the way in the pool is sophomore Claire Pierce, also a native of Australia.

Pierce is the leading goal scorer for the Pioneers this season with 75 scored, and also has 57 steals with 29 assists.

Last year, the Kinesiology major was an ACWPC Division II All-American, WWPA newcomer of the year and CSUEB female athlete of the year.

In just her second year at CSUEB she has made a lasting impact and has the characteristics of a team player.

“This team has great chemistry not only in the pool, but also out,” said Pierce. “As a group we all get along great and this often shines through in our game.

“Over the duration of the season I feel we have grown not only as players but also as a whole. Everyone works hard at practice and this shows in games when our team cohesion and strength allows us to perform at a higher level than we thought possible.”

A major contributing factor to the team’s chemistry lies in the strength of senior Liz Warren.

Warren is entering her last year at CSUEB and is one of the anchors of this team. Coach Cooper describes her backhand as unstoppable and devastating.

Warren holds the record for most goals in the university’s history. In her freshman year, she helped lead the Pioneers to a Division III National Championship. She is a third-time All-American and seeks to receive that honor four years in a row with her dominating play this season.

“I have been on this team for four years now and the work ethic and strength of this team mentally and physically is like no other,” said Warren.

“Our strength is our determination to win. When we have that one thing on our mind we are unstoppable, we just have to play our game.”

Pierce and Warren are joined by goalie and team captain Jayme Pekarske, who is ranked second in the nation in saves with 266.

Coach Cooper describes her as the cornerstone of this team’s defense.

With the solid play of these three top athletes, and the consistency that the rest of this water polo team has shown the entire 2011 campaign, they look to close out the season on a high note.

CSUEB will travel to Bakersfield this weekend for the Roadrunner Invitational to face of against Division I opponents, Colorado State, Santa Clara and CSU Bakersfield for their last regular season competition.

The lady Pioneers will then return home to host the WWPA Championships set to start April 29 – May 1 at the Pioneer Pool.

“We’ve got a really good chance at winning the conference championship,” said Coach Cooper.

“The winner of the championship qualifies for the Division I nationals and we have a pretty good shot at getting there”.

The Division I nationals will take place in Michigan two weeks after the conclusion of the conference championships.

“I think we will always go in as underdogs no matter how we perform throughout the year but I think teams will underestimate us and we will succeed,” said Warren.

“This is honestly the best team I have played with and I really think we have a chance to walk away on top.”