2011 Summary: UR Women’s Water Polo Enjoys Historical Run to Program’s 10th SCIAC Title and Second NCAA Championship Berth
The University of Redlands women's water polo team provided plenty of excitement throughout the 2011 season with thrilling victories, its 10th conference championship, individual accolades and an NCAA Championship appearance. Led by eventual NCAA Division III Coach of the Year Tom Whittemore, the Bulldogs put together one of the most impressive seasons in the program's history by posting a 22-11 overall record, which sits as the most victories in a single season since the 2000 season.
The Bulldogs kicked off the exciting campaign by winning both games at the Redlands Mini-Tournament before taking down NAIA opponent Azusa Pacific University in the opening game of the Cal Baptist University Lancer Invite. After stumbling to host Cal Baptist in its second game of the event, Redlands rattled off three consecutive non-conference wins, which included a 20-4 pounding of Chatham University (PA).
Facing off against tough Division I competition at the Claremont Convergence Tournament, Redlands put up a tough fight against No. 12 UC Irvine and No. 7 Arizona State University but fell short of the upset. Behind junior center Joy Corona (Lake Bluff, IL) and freshman goalkeeper Julie Lupfer (San Diego, CA), the Maroon and Gray rebounded by winning the next two contests to finish out the event on a solid showing. Lupfer notched a then-season-best 13 saves against NAIA foe Concordia University en route to an 8-4 victory, while Corona offered four netters against St. Francis University (NY) en route to defeating the Red Flash by a score of 15-11.
Before partaking in the second Cal Baptist Invite, Redlands fell to perennial rival Marist College (NY) in a one-goal heartbreaker at the Thompson Aquatic Center. The Maroon and Gray then went 2-2 at the two-day event, which was headlined by wins over Fresno Pacific University and Siena University (NY). Against the Sun Birds of Fresno Pacific, junior center Jaime Nippert (Gresham, OR) uncorked a team-high six goals while Lupfer stopped 15 shots.
Competing in their final tournament outing of the preseason, the Bulldogs traveled north to participate in the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner Invite. Redlands' first day of action concluded with wins over Cal State Monterey Bay and Fresno Pacific University. Unfortunately, the team faltered against Brown University (RI) and Hartwick College (NY) in Sunday's matches.
With a 12-8 non-conference record against a legitimate schedule, Redlands was more than ready to jump into Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) competition with hopes of nabbing the program's elusive 10th title. After winning nine championships in the first 12 years, the Bulldogs sought to return the honor back to Redlands after a five-year drought.
Out of the gate, UR tallied consecutive wins over rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, Cal Lutheran University and Whittier College to sit in first place in the conference standings. The Bulldogs finished on top in each outing but only outscored their SCIAC opponents by a combined four goals, with their triumph against Cal Lutheran demanding sudden-death overtime to determine the outcome.
In the SCIAC opener, the Maroon and Gray edged out the Athenas by a 10-8 margin, with Redlands pouring on five fourth-quarter goals. The Bulldogs kept the tension high when they utilized a well-rounded offense to return unscathed from Thousand Oaks with a 10-9 victory in extra periods. Matching the same score as its previous contest, the team took down the Poets of Whittier College in another gritty, hard-fought battle.
Taking a short break from conference competition, Redlands hosted the Panthers of Chapman University in a regional showdown. Four different Bulldog student-athletes tallied a multi-goal performance in the solid 14-7 victory.
After suffering its first SCIAC loss of the season, which came at the hands of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in yet another 10-9 decision, Redlands bounced back by registering a season-high 21 goals against the Beavers of Caltech on Senior Day. Eleven different players scored for the Bulldogs, highlighted by a pair of netters each from seniors Tory Haynes (Valley Center, CA) and Chandler Weeks (Palm Desert, CA).
Later that day, Redlands also defeated Cal State San Bernardino for the second time in 2011, recording a 10-9 overtime thriller against the Coyotes.
Facing off against the top team from Division III, Redlands dropped its last home game of the season to Occidental College by a score of 6-9.
With a 13-5 road victory over the Leopards of the University of La Verne, Redlands concluded conference dual-match play and secured the No. 2 seed for the SCIAC Championship Tournament. During this lopsided triumph, a trio of players provided hat-trick performances with Nippert, Corona and junior driver Dianna Melancon (Riverside, CA) finding the back of the net for the Bulldogs.
Kicking off the three-day championship event, the Bulldogs smoked the host Leopards of La Verne for the second consecutive outing. The Maroon and Gray opened with an early 5-1 lead, which produced a 17-8 rout for a spot in the semifinals.
Redlands continued to execute by defeating the Athenas of CMS for the third time in 2011 and recorded its fifth 10-9 showing of the season. After facing an early deficit, the Bulldogs made the necessary adjustments over the final two frames and outscored CMS by a 5-3 margin en route to the tight victory.
In exciting and dramatic fashion, Redlands needed five extra periods to pull out a 7-6 upset over top-seeded Occidental during the championship game of the SCIAC tournament. The score became knotted at every opportunity with regulation ending in a five-all stalemate. Through two overtime periods, the teams traded goals again, leading to the initial golden-goal stanza. Finally, in the third bout of sudden-victory periods, Melancon scored on a 6-on-5 play with 1:19 remaining on the clock to clinch the title.
By combining the dual-match results with a weighted point system in the tournament, Redlands and Occidental shared the conference championship in 2011, making this the 10th title for the Bulldogs and their first since 2005.
As the SCIAC automatic qualifier, the Maroon and Gray gained a berth to the NCAA Championships Tournament play-in game against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Iona College (NY) in Greenwich, CT. The Bulldogs fell short in continuing their historical run, dropping a 7-13 defeat to the No. 20 Gaels in the exciting postseason match.
Overall, the team wrapped up its season by taking home several honors, including four All-SCIAC selections. Nippert picked up her second consecutive All-Conference First-Team nod and finished her third year at Redlands with the second-most goals (93) in a single season. She also led the team in assists (36) and field blocks (27). Both Corona and sophomore driver Moana Tuipulotu (Lahaina, HI) collected their inaugural All-Conference honors as First-Team members, while sophomore driver Jill Stein (Palm Desert, CA) landed on the Second Team.
As the Bulldogs' ejections-drawn specialist, Corona reset the program's record for a single season with 99.
In addition, Nippert collected First-Team All-America honors from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC), while Tuipulotu and Corona landed on the Second Team. Stein and Melancon also garnered honorable mention status for their contributions.
Although the loss of its talented senior class will not go unnoticed, the Bulldog women's water polo team anticipates continued success with a steady and pertinent foundation of quality experiences. With Whittemore entering his 18th year at the helm with an impressive 10 titles under his belt, Redlands sits poised to build upon its winning tradition while making history along the way.