July 22, 2008
BERKELEY - The 2008 California women's water polo team made great strides towards team unity and demonstrated its ability to be one of the marquee teams in the country. The Golden Bears finished 18-11 overall for the program's 11th consecutive winning season and went 6-6 in the competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
For the seventh year, the Bears traveled to the challenging Stanford Invitational on Feb. 8-9. Cal took fifth out of eight teams after splitting four games with wins over No. 11 Arizona Sate (11-7) and No. 7 San Jose State (9-8 in overtime). Sophomore two-meter Grace Reynolds had six goals with a team-high three against San Jose State, one of which was the game-winning goal in the second overtime period.
The Bears traveled to the Irvine Invitational (Feb. 23-24), where they faired better, taking third place. The story of the tournament was Cal's upsets over then-ranked No. 4 Hawaii (11-7 on Feb. 23) and No. 3 USC (9-8 on Feb. 24). The wins were the Bears' first games of the 2008 campaign over higher ranked teams. Cal's successful weekend garnered national attention and the Bears moved from No. 5 to No. 3 in the national poll, the program's highest ranking since February 2001 when it was third in the nation.
The Bears returned to MPSF competition the next weekend at home with victories over No. 11 Irvine on March 1 (5-3) and No. 13 Long Beach State on March 2 (13-3) to improve to 11-4 overall and 4-1 in the MPSF. Cal continued its six-game MPSF slate against USC at the Spieker Aquatics Complex on March 15 and the Bears, who were unable to fend off the Women of Troy, lost the narrow 8-7 game. Senior defender Molly Hayes had a game-high four goals against No. 8 Arizona State on March 15.
After defeating No. 14 Cal State Northridge, 14-8, on March 22, the Bears had a 7-5 loss to No. 6 San Diego State on March 27. Cal then hosted a nonconference doubleheader of Brown and No. 14 Hartwick on March 30 and defeated both opponents. The Bears split their Southern California games - a 10-4 loss to top-ranked and defending national champion UCLA on April 11 but defeating No. 17 UCSB, 8-6, April 6. In the closing regular season weekend, the Bears again split the weekend series by dropping a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to rival No. 2 Stanford on April 11 but dismantling Cal State Bakersfield, 16-6, April 12.
The Bears earned a seven seed for the MPSF Tournament after finishing their regular season in a tie for seventh in the MPSF with No. 9 UC Irvine. Cal defeated No. 13 Long Beach State in the first round of the tournament in San Diego on April 24 but lost the next day, 8-6, to No. 2 Stanford. The Bears rebounded with an 11-8 upset over No. 4 Arizona State and closed the tournament and the season in a 12-11 overtime loss to host team No. 4 San Diego State.
Over the course of the season, Cal outscored its opponents 273-198 and spent 11 of 14 weeks ranked fifth or better, highlighted by two weeks at No. 3. Ten Bears scored in the double digits with Reynolds leading the way with a team-high 52 goals. Hayes was close behind her with 28 while sophomore defender Meghan Corso had 35 and sophomore utility Darby Anderson grabbed 32. Senior goalie Heather Stuart was the starting keeper and had 269 saves, averaging 10.00 per game.
Stuart was named the MPSF Mikasa Player of the week for the week of Feb. 4 after grabbing 18 saves and helping the Bears go undefeated the previous week. Reynolds earned the MPSF honors for the week of March 24 for pacing the Bears in the 14-8 conference victory over visiting No. 14 Cal State Northridge on March 22. Reynolds and Hayes were named to the MPSF all-second team and Stuart was an honorable mention. Hayes was named to the second All-American team while Stuart received an honorable mention.
Cal had 13 players named to the All-MPSF Academic team, which was the most by any MPSF team. Seniors Katya Eadington, Molly Hayes and Heather Stuart; juniors Melissa Wheeler and Paige Lorenz; redshirt sophomores Darby Anderson, Julie Oreglia, Remy Champion, Stephanie Schnugg; sophomores Camille Hewko, Erin Scully and Grace Reynolds; and redshirt freshman Kirsten Auker were all honored by the MPSF.