By Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief
By Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief
A marvelous performance by the Riverside City College women’s water polo team during its run through the state finals last season capped off the perfect ending as the team went 32-0 after defeating Long Beach City College, 9-7, in the championship match to capture the state title.
While being challenged by coach David Almquist to remain undefeated midway through the season, the Tigers swam past their arch rival, Golden West College, and other powerhouse water polo teams to win their third state championship in five years.
As the new semester emerges upon RCC, a new season awaits the defending state champions, which are looking to put behind their perfect season, and attempt a new goal to repeat as champions.
With the loss of several key players, who were on the team last season, including All-American Jamie Clark, the Tigers are bringing back a bundle of sophomores including goalkeeper, Andrea Antonissen and this season’s team captains, Alison Glaser and Samantha Pirot.
This year’s team has been assembled with high prospect recruits including freshman goalkeeper, Chelsea Denent.
Almquist has high hopes on the new recruits as he said most of them came from winning clubs and high school teams that knew how to win.
“Last year is over; we have a whole bunch of new freshmen (this year) and we don’t have a whole bunch of returning sophomores,” Glaser said. “(The) freshmen coming up are really good so we need to focus on bettering our freshmen and getting them up to that level, which is completely doable.”
Pirot assured the newcomers on the team are taking the right steps with the assistance of the returning players to embed themselves into the direction the team wants to go this year.
“We can get back to where we were last year and win another state championship,” she said.
Before RCC can get back to another state finals tournament, they must face several teams during the season that are looking to avenge the team for the bitter heartbreak defeats they received from the Tigers a year ago.
Asked who were the teams gunning for the Tigers this season, Almquist did not hesitate to point out Long Beach City College, Golden West College and Orange Coast College (two teams from their conference).
“Golden West and Orange Coast, who are very improved and were just one game away from making state finals last year; I will say those two teams first, then Long Beach is a team that’s been to the state finals five or six years in a row,” he said. “We have to really be ready to play when we play them; those three right now are the teams we will focus most on (this season).”
The women’s and men’s water polo teams will finally host home matches at RCC for the first time with the newly aquatic complex, since the pool they had before was not big enough to hold matches in the past.
Last season the teams played their home matches in the Sippy Woodhead Pool at the Bobby Bonds Park and Sports Complex in downtown Riverside.
“It’s amazing; we have one of the nicest (aquatics complex) in all of California now,” Pirot said. “Between our old pool and (the one) in downtown Riverside, this is like Disneyland.”
“When we would practice at Sippy Woodhead Pool there would be gunshots across the street,” Glaser said.
Before the team can show off its amazing aquatics complex to its competitors, the team must start the season in Sacramento for a tournament hosted by American River College.
“American River was third in the state championships last year and to go play them in their pool is going to be a challenge,” Almquist said. “I think when we go up to that tournament the most important thing is, for us to try and implement our team strategies and then from each game on, we will try to improve.”
“The bottom line is: as the season goes on we want to improve and get better so that will just be a standard to find out where we are at,” he said.
Almquist said RCC will be hosting the regional and conference tournament later in the season and he said Riverside has the advantage for being the host because only the two best Southern California teams from the regional round will advance to the state finals tournament.
“We have to play well to get there,” he said.
“I am excited” Pirot said. “I was missing (playing with the team) so much.”
“I was having water polo withdraws,” she said.
With high optimistic on another great year, Almquist said he is pumped to start the season as defending champions.
He also encourages RCC students to come down to the aquatic complex to check out and support the two RCC water polo teams because both water polo teams will have talented teams and competitive seasons against the best teams in the state.
Riverside has its first home match Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. against Sierra College to kick off the start of the Chaffey/Riverside tournament.