National Champion Women's Water Polo Ready to Defend Title at May 4-6 Tournament
The defending national champion Occidental College women’s water polo team will compete for a second straight title at the Division III national championship scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 4-6 at the University of Redlands.
Led by junior goalie Jackie Provost of Oakland, the 2000 Division III player of the year, the fourth-seeded Tigers bring a 16-9 record (6-4 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) to the tournament. Oxy kicks off its title bid at 11:30 a.m. Friday against Grove City College, then plays MIT at 5:30 p.m. At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the team finishes first-round play against Redlands, which won five straight national championships until Oxy claimed the title last year. Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday evening, and the championship game will be played at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Also competing are Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, which Oxy beat in sudden-death overtime in last year’s title game, UC Santa Cruz, Macalester College, and Washington and Jefferson College.
Oxy Coach Dennis Fosdick, the Division III national coach of the year in 2000, said his athletes have been able to put aside any extra pressure brought on by the title defense. “They’re focused on what we’re asking them to do now – play systems and counterattack. They’re at the point now where they can really anticipate what their fellow players are doing, where to make passes, and who will probably get open.”
Occidental advanced to the national tournament after going 3-2 in the SCIAC Championship, held April 27-28 at Pomona-Pitzer. Oxy beat Whittier, Pomona-Pitzer and La Verne with strong goalkeeping from Provost and a skilled passing game. Provost, also the 2000 SCIAC player of the year, blocked two penalty shots against Pomona-Pitzer, sealing a 6-4 victory that ensured Oxy’s return to the national tournament.
The Tigers also used a constant passing game to frustrate opponents and wear down defenders. Demonstrating that proficiency, every goal in the victory over Pomona-Pitzer came off an assist. Likewise, each goal in the 7-1 win over La Verne was the result of an assist.
During weekend play, Oxy will rely on two of this year’s younger players, freshmen driver Kristine Robinson of Murray, Utah, who scored two goals against Pomona-Pitzer, and two-meter defender Kristin Wolowodiuk of Fresno, who is also a scoring threat.
Fosdick started the season with only four returning starters and uncertainties at some defensive slots, but the team was able to rely on its fast break skills, strong driving and its counterattack. “Our main goal this year was to qualify for national championships,” Fosdick said. “Our main goal now is to get to the final game.” Last year’s championship was the first-ever for the women’s water polo program.
In their bid for back-to-back titles, the Oxy women will undoubtedly face fierce competition from its SCIAC challengers. Parity has made the conference highly competitive in recent years, and five of the top six ranked Division III teams in the country, including Oxy, are SCIAC members. In regular-season play this year, Oxy was the only Division III team to beat No. 1 Redlands, but lost to the Bulldogs during the SCIAC tournament last weekend.
Fosdick, who also coaches the Oxy men’s team, is finishing his eighth season with the women’s team. He was previously head swimming and water polo coach at Texas A&M University, compiling a 189-32-1 record while making men’s national championship appearances in 1975 and 1977. In 1971, Fosdick started the Texas State Water Polo Tournament for high school teams. A trophy awarded to that tourney’s most valuable player has been named in his honor.