2012 Summary: Redlands Women's Water Polo Complements Program's History with Exciting Season
Following one of the more successful seasons in program history, the 2012 edition of Bulldog women's water polo faced high expectations for another exciting run through the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and beyond. Equipped with multiple starters from the 2011 squad, Redlands was armed with a preseason ranking of No. 1 among NCAA Division III programs and worked to create opportunities for success throughout the year. As Head Coach Tom Whittemore guided the program for the 18th time, the Bulldogs captured big wins, met player milestones, and represented the Maroon and Gray in fine fashion.
The top-ranked Bulldogs eagerly jumped into the season by earning a pair of victories in the first Redlands Mini Tournament. Whittier College was Redlands' first victim as junior driver Moana Tuipulotu (Lahaina, HI) led the charge with three goals in the game. Senior centers Jaime Nippert (Gresham, OR) and Joy Corona (Lake Bluff, IL) chipped in as well, each notching two scores. Sophomore goalkeeper Julie Lupfer (San Diego, CA) held down the Bulldog cage, making 12 saves en route to the Bulldogs' 9-5 win. Six different players found the back of the net in the Maroon and Gray's second win of the day, which came in an 11-3 triumph over Cal State San Bernardino. Senior standout Nippert fired off a team-leading five goals, while freshman center-defender Hannah Ongman (Flossmoor, IL) and freshman driver Christina Almazan (Anaheim, CA) each notched one goal to help propel their team to victory.
Redlands' hot start was tripped up by Hartwick College (NY), the No. 13 team from NCAA Division I, as the Bulldogs lost in a solid battle to the Hawks by a score of 9-14. Consecutive losses at the ULV Mini Tournament followed, but Redlands quickly regained its rhythm back in the Thompson Aquatic Center when the Bulldogs hosted the Redlands Mini Tournament No. 2. The Maroon and Gray notched victories over NAIA powerhouse Azusa Pacific University, 15-7, and conference foe Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, 9-5. Nippert led all scorers with eight goals on the day. In the win over Azusa Pacific, junior center Jill Stein (Palm Desert, CA) notched a multi-goal performance, while senior driver Casey Sripramong (Glendale, CA) chipped in a couple of scores in the win over the Athenas.
In mid-March, Redlands headed to the Claremont Convergence to take on more non-conference opponents, with day two of the tournament highlighting the team's success with consecutive triumphs over fellow Division III teams. Against Macalester College (MN), Stein stepped up for the Maroon and Gray by firing on all cylinders for a game-high five goals in Redlands' 17-6 victory. During the familiar showdown with Chapman University, Redlands blew open a tight battle with an impressive 8-1 run on the way to the eventual 12-7 triumph. Corona, Tuipulotu and freshman center-defender Haley Hollinrake (Redlands, CA) each provided two goals on the game.
The Bulldogs continued to prepare for the conference season with tough competition through the end of the month, compiling a 5-6 record in that span with wins over Siena College (NY), Azusa Pacific, Virginia Military Institute, the University of La Verne and Fresno Pacific University.
After the ups and downs of a truly challenging schedule, the Bulldogs felt well prepared for SCIAC action, beginning with a home tilt against Whittier. Redlands uncorked seven unanswered scores to start the game en route to the lopsided 13-4 victory. Both Nippert and Stein continued their strong individual performances by notching hat-tricks in the win. In goal, Lupfer was dominant with 13 saves, keeping the Poets from gaining any sort of momentum in the Bulldogs' SCIAC opener.
By early April, the Bulldogs owned a national ranking of No. 3, but ran into a red-hot, top-ranked Pomona-Pitzer Colleges squad that handed Redlands a tough 7-9 loss.
The Maroon and Gray returned to the win column at Occidental College when it prevailed over the Tigers in an exciting 10-8 overtime effort. Despite facing a three-goal deficit at the 6:22 mark of the second period, the Bulldogs rallied back to tie the game at seven apiece with 2:19 remaining in the third frame. Corona scored her second goal of the game at the 1:23 mark to give Redlands its first lead of the match, but the Tigers refused to go down easily, tying the game in the fourth stanza with 59 seconds to go to send the game to overtime. Tuipulotu and Nippert came up clutch in the extra period, both scoring to secure the 10-8 win for the Bulldogs, while Lupfer was a brick wall in the cage, as she shut out the Tigers in overtime.
The team continued its flare for the dramatic by downing rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a comeback victory. Trailing by two at halftime, Redlands rattled off seven straight goals in the third and fourth periods to take a five-goal lead with 3:26 to play. The Athenas, nonetheless, fought back by scoring four in a row to cut the Bulldog lead to one. Nonetheless, Redlands held on to earn the exciting 9-8 decision.
During the squad's 15-4 smashing of Caltech, the Bulldogs benefitted from a true team effort. Ongman led all scorers with five goals, while freshman center-defender Deandra Van Houten (Huntington Beach, CA), Nippert, Stein and Corona each tallied two goals. Freshman goalkeeper Grace Trilla (Western Springs, IL) saw some time in the net, racking up three saves in the process.
After splitting contests with San Diego State and Chapman, Redlands wrapped up the first round of conference action by rolling past La Verne and edging out the Cal Lutheran University Regals on Senior Day.
With only one blemish to their conference record, the Bulldogs entered the SCIAC Championship Tournament as the No. 2 seed and faced off against the host, Whittier College, in the opening round.
The squad easily dismissed the Poets by a score of 11-6, leading to a tight semifinal showdown with Occidental. This second-round contest included plenty of drama as Redlands trailed by three goals before a late-game, dramatic comeback set up the exciting 7-6 victory. Tuipulotu provided the eventual game-winner with only 3:15 remaining.
The coveted title came down to the final game of the tournament, which pitted Redlands against the Pomona-Pitzer Colleges as the only team to have registered a victory over the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the Maroon and Gray came up one goal short as the Sagehens nabbed the triumph during golden-goal overtime. The entire game was back and forth, but Redlands never trailed in the contest. After Pomona-Pitzer tied it up with 5:35 remaining in the fourth period, neither team could capitalize in the final minutes, resulting in overtime. The teams traded scores, forcing a third and final extra period to decide the victor. The Sagehens finally secured the golden goal, leading to the heartbreaking loss for the U of R.
Due to their stellar efforts throughout the season, Redlands garnered four All-SCIAC honorees, as Nippert and Corona earned First-Team honors, and Stein and Tuipulotu landed on the Second Team.
In addition, both Nippert and Corona collected First-Team All-America nods, and Stein, Tuipulotu and Lupfer each gained a spot on the Honorable Mention All-America team.
Finally, Nippert and Corona both closed out their illustrious careers in impressive form by leaving their names etched in the Bulldog records book. Nippert currently ranks fourth all-time in the program's history for goals (256) and assists (135), and also sits ninth all-time in career steals (166). Corona sits atop the all-time list for Redlands with 305 ejections drawn in her career - a mark that will likely stand the test of time.
Head Coach Tom Whittemore boasted not only a talented team in the pool, but a talented squad in the classroom, as seven Bulldogs landed on the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) various all-academic teams. Ongman received "Outstanding" honors, and Nippert, Corona, Lupfer, Taylor and freshman driver Tricia Bannister (Naperville, IL) all earned a "Superior" distinction. Tuipulotu rounded out the group by earning an "Excellent" distinction.
Despite the loss of a decorated class of seniors, the Bulldog women's water polo team boasts the high-caliber experience and expectations for continued to success to propel the program onward and upward. With a hearty crew of returnees leading the charge, Head Coach Tom Whittemore's team sits in prime position to vie for the program's 11th conference title and possible third trip to the NCAA Championships.