Wednesday, May 22

Scouting report: 2017 NCAA women’s water polo championship

Redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal and the No. 1-seeded UCLA women's water polo team will play No. 17 Wagner in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, but there are six other teams the Bruins could potentially face as they navigate the field for a national championship. (Ken Shin/Daily Bruin)

Redshirt senior attacker Rachel Fattal and the No. 1-seeded UCLA women's water polo team will play No. 17 Wagner in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, but there are six other teams the Bruins could potentially face as they navigate the field for a national championship. (Ken Shin/Daily Bruin)

The stage for the 2017 NCAA women’s water polo championship is set.

Half of the field will be familiar faces for UCLA women’s water polo, as three other teams from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation were selected. The remaining four teams, however, are conference champions from four other conferences, some the Bruins have faced, some they haven’t.

Here’s the scouting report for the seven teams competing alongside the No. 1-seeded Bruins for this year’s national championship.

No. 2 Stanford (20-3, 5-1 MPSF)
Leading Scorer: Maggie Steffens, 55
Percentage of team’s goals: 17.5%
Goals allowed/game: 4.65
Saves/game: Gabby Stone, 8.36

Of the three top teams in the MPSF conference, the Cardinal spent the most time as the No. 1 team in the country this season. Stanford has beaten No. 3 USC, No. 5 UC Irvine, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 7 Michigan and No. 11 Hawai’i once each and No. 4 California three times.

Stanford also found themselves with multiple players with conference honors. The Cardinal has three players who received first team selections: redshirt senior driver Maggie Steffens, who led the team with 55 goals and also won MPSF Player of the Year, senior driver Jamie Neushul and redshirt senior goalkeeper Gabby Stone. Freshman defender Makenzie Fischer was awarded second team honors and junior defender Jordan Raney received an honorable mention.

No. 3 USC (28-3, 4-2 MPSF)
Leading Scorer: Stephania Haralabidis, 80
Percentage of team’s goals: 17.5%
Goals allowed/game: 4.45
Saves/game: Amanda Longan, 10.77

The Trojans went 30-0 last season, including their national championship win, and added 25 more games to their NCAA record-winning streak before losing to Stanford halfway through the conference season. They started the year ranked No. 2, before beating Stanford at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational in February and maintaining the No. 1 spot until they lost to the Cardinal weeks later.

Against other ranked teams, the Trojans have defeated some at least once. They beat Arizona State, Hawai’i, Michigan and No. 13 San Diego State twice each as well as UCLA and Stanford once.

The Trojans have five players who earned All-MPSF selections. Senior driver Stephania Haralabidis, who led the conference with 80 goals, was selected for the first team. Freshman utility Maud Megens, senior two-meter Brigitta Games, senior driver Ioanna Haralabidis and sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Longan received second team selections.

No. 4 California (15-9, 2-4 MPSF)
Leading Scorer: Dora Antal, 49
Percentage of team’s goals: 19.2%
Goals allowed/game: 6.88
Saves/game: Madeline Trabucco, 8.00

Despite a losing record in conference play, Cal is still in the NCAA Tournament, as the Bears have managed to hover between the No. 4 and No. 5 slots throughout the year, and finished the season beating Arizona State and dropping two competitive losses to the Bruins and the Trojans.

On the season, Cal has beaten Michigan and Pacific once and Arizona State twice. Against other MPSF teams, Cal had two losses against UCLA that were decided by one goal late in the game, and in two games against Stanford, Cal only lost by three goals each time.

Junior driver Dora Antal earned a first team selection and also led the Bears in goals scored with 49. Redshirt junior utility Anna Illes was awarded second team honors while senior center Emily Loughlin and freshman utility Emma Wright received honorable mentions.

No. 5 UC Irvine (23-6, 5-0 Big West Conference)
Leading Scorer: Mary Brooks, 63
Percentage of team’s goals: 21.4%
Goals allowed/game: 6.72
Saves/game: Annika Nelson, 10.78

UC Irvine automatically qualified for its fifth-ever NCAA championship selection after an 8-7 overtime victory against No. 9 Long Beach State in the Big West Conference championship. This year, the Anteaters have beaten Long Beach State, Michigan, San Diego State and No. 12 UC Davis twice each and have won their last 14 games to close out their season, but have yet to beat a top-five team.

Junior utility Mary Brooks was awarded the conference’s most valuable player award for the second consecutive year. Brooks also led the team in goals for the second year in a row with 68 goals, and six other Anteaters were named to conference honors including senior attacker Kelsey Thornton – first team – and coach Dan Klatt – coach of the year.

No. 7 Michigan (28-8, 8-0 Collegiate Water Polo Association)
Leading Scorer: Allison Skaggs, 60
Percentage of team’s goals: 14.4%
Goals allowed/game: 6.28
Saves/game: Heidi Ritner, 9.46

In the CWPA championship, Michigan defeated Princeton 5-4 to capture its second conference title in as many years. This season, the Wolverines have two wins against Hawai’i, No. 10 Princeton and No. 12 UC Davis and three wins against No. 19 UC Santa Barbara. Like the Anteaters, however, they have no wins over top-five teams.

Coming into this weekend’s tournament, Michigan is riding a 16-game winning streak. Senior center Allison Skaggs, who won the CWPA championship MVP, was named to conference first team and won CWPA player of the year. Five other players collected conference honors, as freshman utility Maddy Steere was also named to the CWPA first team and four players were awarded second team honors.

No. 8 Pacific (21-8, 6-1 Golden Coast Conference)
Leading Scorer: Kyra Christmas, 59
Percentage of team’s goals: 19.5%
Goals allowed/game: 7.13
Saves/game: Alexis, Hollinrake, 8.14

After barely surviving a Golden Coast Conference semifinal against No. 23 Loyola Marymount, Pacific handled No. 14 San Diego State 11-7 to win the conference crown. It beat No. 25 Pomona-Pitzer last Saturday to win one of two NCAA playoff games and secure a matchup with No. 2 Stanford.

The Tigers are paced by redshirt freshman Kyra Christmas who leads the team with 59 goals, but three others have more than 40 goals on the season. All four made all-conference rosters: Christmas and freshman Mariana Duarte to the first team, junior Rachel Krieger to the second team and junior Karolina Hlavata as an honorable mention. Twelve of the Tigers’ 15 field players have played in all 29 games this year.

No. 17 Wagner (26-10, 14-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
Leading Scorer: Kimberly Watson, 99
Percentage of team’s goals: 25.3%
Goals allowed/game: 6.39
Saves/game: Emily Riddle, 6.34

In the MAAC championship game, Wagner defeated Marist College 11-7 for its fourth consecutive conference title. Wagner upset No. 15 UC San Diego in the play-in round of the NCAA championship to get the chance to play UCLA in the first round.

Against ranked opponents, Wagner has beaten No. 20 Harvard and UC San Diego twice and No. 21 San Jose State once. Their leading scorer, junior utility Kimberly Watson, netted 99 goals, which was good for the most in the MAAC this year.

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Sports staff

Veal is currently a Sports staff writer for the softball and women's water polo beats. He was previously a reporter for the cross country and men's soccer beats.

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