The No. 2 ranked California women's water polo team made it to the national championship title match for the second season in a row, only to lose to its nemesis UCLA again in the final of the Collegiate Water Polo Nationals, May 11 in Ann Arbor, MI.
The Bruins had held a slim 3-2 lead entering the fourth period of the championship match, but were able to outscore the Bears, 3-1, in the final seven minutes for the 6-3 victory. Cal, which finished the season 30-8, was led by the vonHartitzsch sisters, Alisa and Melanie, and freshman Colette Glinkowski, who each tallied a goal in the final match.
"It was a great season, I'm very happy with how we did," said coach Maureen O'Toole. "It was a great game in the finals. We had our chances, but sometimes you don't get the breaks and the other team does. We are still an inexperienced team, so I think we are going to be even better next year."
Alisa vonHartitzsch, a junior transfer from Brown, was the tournament's leading scorer with 13 goals and was named tournament MVP. A first team All-American, vonHartitzsch finished the '97 season with an impressive 119 goals and was also selected first team all-tournament. Joining vonHartitzsch as a first team all-tournament selection was sophomore Kaliya Young, and sophomore goalie Evi Schueller was second team all-tournament.
O'Toole's squad made it to the national final by defeating Massachusetts, 13-6; USC, 9-6 and Bay Area rival Stanford, 6-5, in the semifinals.
In only their second year as a varsity sport, the Bears have made to the championship match in both '96 and '97. In 1996, Cal lost to the Bruins, 8-4, in the finals. A consolation for the Bears, however, is that Cal is the only team to have defeated UCLA in the past two years. In 1996, the Bears defeated the Bruins, 8-7, in the championship match of the Western Regional Qualifying Tournament, and in 1997 defeated UCLA, 4-3, Feb. 15 at the UC San Diego Invitational.
Earlier in '97, Alisa vonHartitzsch was named co-MVP of the Western Regional Qualifying Tournament (hosted at Cal) and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Northern Division Player of the Year. Schueller was named MPSF Northern Division Goalie of the Year and O'Toole was selected MPSF Northern Division Coach of the Year.