Jan. 15, 2001
BERKELEY, CA - The California women's water polo team has an impressive array of talent entering the 2001 season as the Golden Bears feature two Olympians, three All-Americans, the MPSF Goalie of the Year and the MPSF Coach of the Year. It all adds up to Cal once again being in contention to win the national title.
In five years as a varsity sport, the Bears women's water polo program has amassed a 145-34 record (.810 winning percentage), placing second in the nation three times and fourth in the nation twice. With that, Cal is attempting to win its first national title and the first-ever NCAA Women's Water Polo crown this season.
"Year in and year out we have been competing for the national title, and this year we will be competing for the NCAA Championship as well," said head coach Peter Asch, who was the 2000 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year. "But, we also realize we will be in the hunt with a number of other teams that could win it all."
Returning standouts for the Bears include seniors Fana Fuqua and Beth Irwin, who will be instrumental in Cal's title chase. Fuqua, one of the nation's top collegiate goalies, was a first team All-American and the MPSF Goalie of the Year last season while racking up 210 saves. She was also first team MPSF, first team All-National Tournament, MVP of the UC San Diego Invitational and earned MPSF Player of the Week honors tallying 12 and 14 saves against USC and Stanford.
Irwin has been a model of consistency for the Bears ever since her freshman year and will again be a team leader. She has scored 94 goals in her college career and this past summer was the MVP of the Senior Nationals. Last year, Irwin was third on the team with 37 goals and earned second team All-America honors. She was also second team All-MPSF and first team all-tournament at the both the MPSF and National Championships.
Two more returning starters for Cal are juniors Brenna Fleener and Julia Cesnik. Fleener is a talented left-handed shooter who was second on the team with 39 goals last season and has 69 goals in her career. She is also a solid defensive player and was named honorable mention All-MPSF in 2000.
Cesnik is valuable at two-meters for the Bears, scoring 28 goals and helping Cal to the Santa Barbara Women's Open Tournament title last season. She scored three goals Feb. 27 against both USC and Stanford in one point Bears wins during the Santa Barbara Tournament and was named MPSF Player of the Week for her efforts.
A boost to the Cal women's water polo program will definitely be the return of Olympians Heather Petri and Ericka Lorenz. The two players come back to Berkeley after helping the United States to the silver medal in the first-ever Olympic women's water polo competition. Petri will be a veteran of the Bears squad as the senior All-American has been a key player since 1997, and has scored 75 goals in her college career. Petri sat out the 2000 season to train with the national team but will return as one of the nation's top two-meter players, both offensively and defensively.
Lorenz will be competing as a true freshman although she attended Cal in the fall of 1999 before being selected to the United States National Team. She will immediately add scoring punch to the Bears as she is considered one of the best outside shooters in the world, scoring six goals during the Sydney Olympic Games. At 5-11, Lorenz is a tremendously talented all-around athlete with experience in international competition.
Another strength of Cal's 2001 squad should be its depth, with several players having the ability to provide the Bears with a spark. Juniors Julie Arnold, Cristen Razzari and Chris Lane, plus sophomore Laura Graham, just to name a few, should see plenty of action. Arnold scored 18 goals and Razzari, 15 goals, last year, while Lane and Graham will also help Cal on the offensive and defensive end.