The Western Water Polo Association Championships, filled with high emotions and intensity, saw CSU East Bay take fourth place to post the best finish in school history.
The top teams from the WWPA traveled to Hayward, where the championships were being held at Chabot College over the weekend, giving the Pioneers the home-field advantage.
The three-day event saw everything from upsets to blowouts, and in the end UC San Diego took this year’s championship, knocking off No. 1 seeded Loyola Marymount University,and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships in Michigan.
CSUEB entered the Championships ranked fifth in the conference with a 20-15 overall record and an 8-3 record in the WWPA.
The lady Pioneers began play on Friday against Division I opponent Colorado State where they got off to the races early, building a significant lead to defeat Colorado 10-5 in the first round.
Saturday, during the second round, The Pioneers then proceeded to face off against top-ranked Loyola Marymount in the semi-final match.
LMU showed, however, why they were the top team in the WWPA, as they defeated CSUEB 14-7 to advance to the Championship Final.
In the final round of play on Sunday, the Pioneers squared off against another Division I opponent, Santa Clara University, but were defeated in a close match by a score of 7-4 to close out the season for the Pioneers and solidify them at fourth place.
CSUEB entered the season confident that they would perform at high levels this year.
Success and a fourth place finish in the WWPA championships speaks magnitudes to the kind of season this was for the Pioneers.
“2011 was a good season,” said head coach Lisa Cooper. “We hope to be able to build on our success next year.”
“Our schedule this year was extremely hard, with 12 of our 15 losses coming against Division I teams. We beat a lot of good teams this year and we are right up there at the top of the conference, which is a good sign.
“Hopefully next year we can be playing in the championship game of the conference tournament with a chance to go to NCAA’s.”
The future looks bright for this water polo squad as Claire Peirce, who lead the WWPA in goals and steals this season, will return next year in her junior year in hopes of leading the Pioneers back to the WWPA Championships once more.
Peirce was also selected to the All WWPA team along with teammates Jayme Pekarske and Sarah Grunberger for their success this season.
“Placing fourth is a great achievement that everyone on the team is really proud of,” said Peirce. “Losing to Santa Clara was a disappointing loss as we were so close to third place. However, it was nice to finish the season off setting a new record high for CSUEB water polo.
“Overall, I know I am extremely proud of our achievements and only hope we can continue to grow—not only as program, but also as a team.
“The team will be moving on without six of their admired seniors.
“The ending of the season this year has been extremely emotional,” said Peirce.
“The seniors this year played a crucial role in the dynamics of the team both in and out of the pool. They will be all greatly missed by everyone.”
Those seniors include Liz Warren, arguably one of the best water polo players to have ever played for this organization.
Warren had been an anchor in the pool for the Pioneers in her four years with the team.
She was the leading scorer for the Pioneers her sophomore and junior years, and has put up stellar numbers in her last season with CSUEB.
After graduation, the Criminal Justice major will go on to protect the community as a police officer.
For Warren, ending her last season is bittersweet. She feels accomplished in wrapping up the year on such a high note, but explains how she will truly miss her teammates.
“I am honored to have played with such an awesome team,” said Warren, “[and] playing with one of the most talented players I know, Claire Pierce. She always surprises me with what she does in the pool. She can go a long way, and I am looking forward to seeing her play in the Olympics, hopefully for the USA.”
The team chemistry on this East Bay team is one that has bonded the girls together through the lows, but mostly highs of the season.
An underdog coming into the 2011 campaign, the Pioneers silenced their critics in making history for CSUEB.
Although this year will go into the record books as the best season for East Bay water polo, you can count on many more championship runs for this well-rounded team.