A Family’s Success: Water Polo Prepares for the WWPA Championships

Dylan Anderman, Sports Editor

A Family’s Success: Water Polo Prepares for the WWPA Championships
After falling short in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championship last season, California State University, East Bay’s women’s water polo team is preparing for another run at the title.
So far, the team has had a spectacular year, emerging as the second seed in the West region. Throughout the season, the Pioneers played against formidable Division 1 teams and held a 4-2 record in conference play. As the weekend draws close, the water polo team is training around the clock to prepare for their conference tournament in hopes of returning home as champions.
Despite entering the season with a tough schedule and plenty of new faces on the roster, the Pioneers proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in the WWPA. “We are preparing for the WWPA [Championships] the same as every game we walk into! We take each game as it comes,” stated Daniela Passoni.
It all started with Passoni, the Pioneers’ wall in the cage, who led the conference in saves, save percentage, goals-against average, and saves per game, earning her the titles of Player of the Week between Mar. 27 to Apr. 2 and 2023 WWPA Player of the Year for her exceptional performance; third player in CSUEB’s history to receive the Player of the Year award. The East Bay goalie is adding to her accolades as she was a member of the 2021 South Africa Olympic team, a three-time first-team All-WWPA, and a one-time All-American. The star athlete credits her team for her success in the pool, noting that, “I know that I couldn’t have achieved that without them.”
With Passoni locking down the cage, Rachel Heredia and Luna Sarmiento have proven themselves as offensive stars. The two Drivers have both received Player of the Week and All-League honors as they dominated in the pool all season long.
“I am very happy to be named [Player of the Week] because I have been working very hard,” shared Sarmiento. In a competitive league such as the WWPA, the Player of the Week awards don’t come easy.
Thanks to the support of her team, Sarmiento continues to bring her very best week in and week out: “All my teammates have helped me [earn this honor],” Sarmiento commented. Heading into the WWPA Championships, Sarmiento has a team-high of 65 goals, 20 assists, and 24 steals and earned First team All-WWPA.
With a regular season stat line of 40 goals, 10 assists, and 10 steals and a WWPA Honorable Mention, Heredia echos Sarmiento in her expressing her gratitude for her team’s support in enabling her towards an excellent season, saying, “[Every day] I train hard and receive support from my family, friends, and my coach. They push me to be a better water polo player,” Heredia stated.
Despite losing several elite players from last season, the newcomers for East Bay have taken the conference by storm. These young players didn’t take long to adapt to the culture and the competition, as they helped the Pioneers secure the second seed in the tournament. One upcoming star, Elise Whitworth, was honored with the Newcomer of the Year award, finishing the season with 33 goals and 15 assists.
Core sophomore and second-team All-WWPA Jordan Jarandson finished the regular season with 41 goals, 18 assists, and 10 steals, demonstrating immense promise as she shines early in their career at East Bay.
Ultimately, the team’s success rests on their hard work and a strong sense of camaraderie. “My favorite part about this team is the fun we all have during practice and how we incorporate that fun into the games,” Sarmiento said. Heredia chimed in, saying “[Everyone on my team is] all part of my family… Being able to practice and hang out with an amazing group of women every day has been my favorite part about this season.”
During moments of struggle, the water polo women have pulled themselves up together. “We have had many ups and downs, but it’s growing pains and I have every confidence that we are able to produce this weekend,” said Passoni. “Even though some games didn’t go as we wanted, we learn from them and always keep growing!” added Sarmiento.
While the past season has proven to be difficult in lieu of a tough schedule, the team has persevered, demonstrating their potential as a top water polo team thanks to their shared commitment to improvement, excellence, and familial bond. East Bay cheers the Pioneers on as the water polo team begins to fight for their chance at the WWPA Championship title on Apr. 28.