April 30, 2012

Pomona-Pitzer Draws Top-Ranked Stanford In First Round of NCAA Tournament

Claremont, Calif. – The Pomona-Pitzer Women's Water Polo team will make its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last three years when it meets top-ranked Stanford on May 11 at the San Diego State Aquaplex.

Pomona-Pitzer (21-16) will be the eighth seed in the eight-team tournament and will meet up with Stanford (23-2) for the second straight time in the NCAAs. Two years ago, the Cardinal captured a 23-3 win in the opening round, which was also hosted by San Diego State, and ended up falling 10-9 to USC in the championship game. Pomona-Pitzer, meanwhile, fell to Michigan in the consolation bracket and dropped a 7-6 match to Marist in the seventh-place contest.

The Sagehens are also currently the No. 1 ranked team in Division III, so the opening round match will feature a rare meeting of top-ranked teams in different divisions. There is also an academic element to the rivalry, as Stanford is currently ranked fifth by U.S. News & World Report among national universities (behind only Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia), while Pomona College is ranked fourth among liberal arts colleges (behind only Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore).

The winner of Pomona-Pitzer's match with Stanford will advance to the semifinals on May 12 against the winner of the match between fifth-seeded Loyola Marymount (20-9) and fourth-seeded Cal Irvine (24-6). The two quarterfinal losers will also face each other in a consolation game on May 12, with the final day of competition taking place on Sunday. May 13, beginning with the seventh-place match.

The other half of the bracket features second-seeded UCLA (21-3) against seventh-seeded Iona (24-11) and third-seeded USC (21-5) against sixth-seeded Princeton (28-4).

Pomona-Pitzer has faced three of the teams in the NCAA Tournament before, as it fell earlier this season to Loyola Marymount (17-6) and Cal Irvine (15-4), and dropped a home match with Iona (8-6).

The Sagehens earned the automatic bid to the eight-team championship with a dramatic 12-11 triple-overtime win over Redlands in the SCIAC Championship game on Sunday, its 11th straight victory. Freshman Mahalia Prater-Fahey (San Diego, Calif./Patrick Henry HS) scored the game-winner on a blind backhand with 50 seconds left in the third overtime, allowing her to return to her hometown of San Diego for the NCAA's.

Prater-Fahey isn't the only Sagehen making a homecoming, as freshman Hannah Robertson, who joined the team after swimming season, also hails from San Diego. In addition, two Pomona-Pitzer players will be facing their hometown school in the opening round, as sophomore Alex Lincoln and freshman Sallie Walecka both hail from Palo Alto.

Freshman Alyssa Woodward (Riverside, Calif.) leads the Sagehens with 77 goals this season, and scored twice on opening day against California in the one of their two meetings this season with Pac 12 teams (a 21-4 defeat, the other was a 21-6 loss to Arizona State). Senior Annie Oxborough-Yankus (Wallingford, Conn.) has 58 goals, including 10 in the SCIAC Tournament (five in the championship game).

Oxborough-Yankus, fellow senior captain Perri Hopkins (Agoura, Calif.) and junior goalie Sarah Tuggy (Los Angeles, Calif.) are the lone holdovers from Pomona-Pitzer's last NCAA Tournament team (Oxborough-Yankus had three goals, including one against Stanford, while Hopkins scored two). The trio has been supported by an impressive freshman class this year, led by Woodward, Prater-Fahey and Sarah Westcott (Menlo Park, Calif.), as freshmen have scored 195 of the team's 327 goals.