National Champion Women's Water Polo Team Set to Defend Title
Led by goalie Jackie Provost of Oakland, the 2000 Division III player of the year, the defending national champion Occidental College women’s water polo team will launch a new title run when the season gets underway March 3 with a round-robin tournament at Oxy’s Taylor Pool.
Four Tiger starters are returning to this year’s squad, which should be one of the top teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and a strong contender to advance to nationals. Last year’s team won the Division III national championship in dramatic style with a 7-6 sudden-death overtime victory against conference rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The May 7, 2000, victory was the first-ever national championship for the women’s water polo program.
Returning stars include sophomore driver Kate Whitchurch of Palo Alto, a first-team representative to the 2000 all-SCIAC team, and junior driver Ali Williams of Bellevue, Wash., who was named a third-team all-American. Whitchurch and Provost were also selected first-team all-Americans by the American Water Polo Coaches Association (AWPCA). Additionally, Provost earned 2000 SCIAC player of the year honors.
Two highly touted freshmen, driver Kristine Robinson of Murray, Utah, and two-meter defender Kristin Wolowodiuk of Fresno, join a team that is speedier in the pool and stronger on the counter-attack than a year ago. Coach Dennis Fosdick, the 2000 Division III coach of the year, says this year’s women have the same competitive drive that helped the team tally a 23-14 record last year, including a 7-2 record in overtime.
“They won’t fold because we might be a goal down late in the game,” Fosdick says. “They’ll keep pounding, and that’s how we won games last year. We’re not going to roll over for you. You’ve got to beat us from the first whistle to the last horn.”
In the March home opener, Oxy will face Chapman College, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Hayward in a round-robin tournament that will give Fosdick to a chance to experiment with his lineup. “We’re going to be playing the bench as much as possible early on to see if there’s someone there I don’t know about,” he says. “The chemistry is always a little different every year.” With last year’s success, Fosdick expects tougher challenges from competitors: “We can’t sneak up on anybody anymore. To a degree, I really don’t think people took us too seriously in past years.”
Oxy will rely heavily on Provost, a kinesiology major whose dominating defense has boosted the quality of play in the SCIAC. “She’s very active, very quick,” Fosdick says. “She allowed us to make some mistakes and not be hurt by them.”
Fosdick, who also coaches the Oxy men’s team, is starting 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 was recently named in his honor.