AZUSA, Calif.-- The 2012 women’s water polo schedule has been released, and Head Coach Julie Snodgrass’s first season at the helm will be a challenge as the Cougars face five teams that finished last season ranked inside the Collegiate Water Polo Coaches Association top-20 poll (which includes NCAA Div. I-III, and NAIA).
"I am excited to take our competition to the next level as we [transition] into the NCAA. I know we have some difficult games ahead of us, but I know we’ll rise to the challenge,” said Snodgrass.
“When the team first looked over the schedule their eyes lit up with excitement. We want to win, and we know we are going to have to work hard to make it happen.”
For the third straight year the Cougars open the season with a match against Fresno Pacific before facing Cal State Monterey Bay on Jan. 21 in Fresno, Calif. Azusa Pacific dropped all three of its games in last year’s series with the Sunbirds, and split two matches with Cal State Monterey Bay.
Following the trip to Fresno the Cougars will travel to Vanguard on Feb. 1, and then head north again for a three game trip to the Bay Area where they’ll play Sonoma State, Cal State East Bay, and the University of Pacific from Feb. 3-4.
East Bay was on the cusp of the CWPA-top-20 all of last year, while Pacific, a traditionally strong program, finished the year ranked No. 20 in the country.
The road trip for the team continues with a double header in L.A. against NCAA Div. III Occidental and Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 11. The Cougars and Coyotes traded victories last season, with Azusa Pacific winning the last one 8-7 at San Bernardino, while Occidental won a 14-10 match in Azusa in 2011.
The following weekend the Cougars will participate in the first of two Lancer Invitationals hosted by California Baptist, before squaring off with Redlands on the road on Feb. 25. For the next two weekends Azusa Pacific will compete in two tournaments, first in the Cal Lutheran Tournament on March 2-3 and then the Cal State Bakersfield Tournament on Saturday March 10.
After that the Cougars will participate in the second Lancer Invitational, battling a pair of perennial NCAA Div. III powers in Claremont Mudd Scripps, and Redlands on the first day (March 16), then Iona (ranked No. 19 in the final CWPA poll last season) and the Virginia Military Institute on March 17.
Azusa Pacific went a combined 3-5 in the Lancer Invitationals in 2011, but did record its highest goal total of the season with a 20-9 win over Vanguard at the tournament.
Finally, after 20 games and nine cities the Cougars will host its first and last home match of the season on March 20. The team will welcome NCAA Div. I Arizona State (No. 8 in final CWPA poll), and Princeton to the Marie T. Mills Aquatic Facility on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut for a double-header starting at 4:15 p.m.
“I’m excited to bring in two great programs like ASU and Princeton,” said Snodgrass. “It’ll be fun for the girls to play in front of their classmates and friends. I’m hoping we can get a lot of students to come out.”
After the brief home stand Azusa Pacific will travel to Orange for a match against Chapman on March 23, and then to San Diego for three contests, including a UCSD team that finished last year ranked No. 14 in the country.
From there the Cougars will have just three more regular-season matches as they play at California Baptist and at Loyola Marymount on April 10 and 19 respectively. The season ends where it started as Azusa Pacific will compete in the NAIA National Invite in Fresno on April 20-21, looking to post its first winning season it the program's fourth year.