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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Club water polo team finishes 4th

    UA womens club water polo utility player Cami Kliner swoops in on the ball during the UC-Davis Invitational March 16 at Schall Aquatic Center. Arizona placed fourth in last weekends 2008 National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships, tying the squads highest-ever finish.
    UA women’s club water polo utility player Cami Kliner swoops in on the ball during the UC-Davis Invitational March 16 at Schall Aquatic Center. Arizona placed fourth in last weekend’s 2008 National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships, tying the squad’s highest-ever finish.

    If there’s a sport involving water, the Wildcats seem to excel at it.

    The Arizona women’s club water polo team finished fourth in last weekend’s 2008 National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships held at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore.

    Add that to the Arizona Splashcats’ sixth-place finish in the Synchronized Swimming National Championships this past weekend, the men’s and women’s swim teams’ national championships earlier this semester and the men’s club water polo team’s fourth-place showing at the CWPA Men’s National Championships in November, and one could argue there’s an oasis in the Sonoran Desert for aquatic sports.

    “”I couldn’t have been happier with the team’s performance,”” said utility player Cami Kliner. “”Everyone gave it their all and everyone left everything in the pool. By the time we got out of the pool after the (last) game we could barely walk we were all so tired. We really came together as a team and it was an awesome experience.””

    The No. 5 Wildcats finished the season with a 16-3 record and won the Southwest Division of the CCWPA to earn its spot in the national tournament, but that wasn’t the toughest part of their week. The Tuesday before the tournament was slated to begin, the pool broke where the team usually practices – the pump and filtration went down – which left the squad high and dry.

    “”Some of us weren’t in the water for five days before the tournament, so that’s already a huge disadvantage,”” Kliner said. “”The fact that we were able to overcome that obstacle and place fourth is really, really exciting.””

    The road to the Wildcats’ fourth-place finish wasn’t quite as tumultuous as the days leading up to it, but it was nothing short of dramatic. They opened up the tournament by throttling Texas A&M 11-5, led by center Justine Hedlund’s five goals and the 11 saves by goalie Rachel Nau. Kliner and guard Patricia White chipped in three goals apiece as Arizona moved onto the next round where it faced UCLA.

    Saturday morning’s game against the Bruins was much more tense as UCLA’s Adele Young sent the game to overtime by scoring eight seconds before the final whistle. But the Bruins comeback wasn’t enough to top Arizona as utility player Jennifer Shah scored her second goal of the game with 1:17 left in the extra frame to secure the Wildcats’ win.

    “”That (win) was extremely exciting for us because none of the girls have ever played at that elite level before,”” Kliner said of Arizona advancing to the semifinals of the tournament.

    In the semis later that evening, Arizona faced a powerhouse in No. 2 California Polytechnic State University, but the overtime thriller proved too much for the Wildcats to overcome. They fell behind 5-0 after the first quarter and couldn’t dig themselves out of that hole, eventually falling to Cal-Poly 11-5.

    The loss set up a match in the consolation final between Arizona and the only team which defeated it in the regular season: top-ranked University of California-Davis.

    Arizona led 4-3 at the half, but UC-Davis’ Meredith Muecke scored with 2:56 left in the game to give the Aggies a 6-5 win.

    “”Davis has a very, very deep squad, and while we have a great squad, our bench lacked the experience,”” said UA head coach Emily Schmit. “”We have a lot of talent but we just couldn’t keep up with their subbing … They would sub in six people at a time sometimes … But we had a lot of players who really stepped up.””

    Kliner and Hedlund both garnered second-team All-Tournament honors as Hedlund netted 11 goals and Kliner tallied nine of her own. In addition to those honors, just making the national tournament was a great accomplishment for Arizona. Last year the Wildcats took seventh, but the last time they qualified for the tournament was the 2001 campaign. Nevertheless, the squad is making great strides toward becoming an elite club team, but that won’t be the case much longer. Arizona will make the jump to being a varsity sport in two years.

    “”It’ll be great for them once it gets started,”” said Nau. “”We don’t have a program, but once we have a program I know it’s gonna be one of the top recruiting schools…””

    The future is definitely bright for the women’s water polo team, and coaches and players alike foresee big things on the horizon. Perhaps even bringing more championship trophies to back to this desert oasis.

    “”I’m really excited about next year because everyone really stepped up,”” Kliner said. “”Everyone really went above and beyond what I was expecting and the learning curve of some of the younger girls on the team is astounding. I’m really excited to see what they’re gonna be able to do next year with all this experience, because honestly that was really (our) weakest link.””

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