Women’s water polo prepare for the playoffs

By Nick Peralta
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Chelsea Buchanan | Viewpoints

Another year, another successful season comes to a close for the Riverside City College women’s water polo team.

After capping off their season with a 19-6 victory over conference rival school Saddleback College on Oct. 24, the Tigers now look ahead to the Orange Empire Conference Championships. Finishing with a 16-6 record in the 2018 season, RCC placed first in the OEC standings with a undefeated 5-0 record inside the conference.

“Being undefeated in our conference it forces us to play harder,” sophomore defender Nikkol Webber said. “Especially because we know that they’re coming after us.”

Head coach Doug Finfrock has found a multitude of success since taking the head coach mantle back in 2012. Finfrock initially joined the RCC staff back in 2002 as an assistant coach. In his time with RCC, the women’s water polo team has garnered a large volume of awards, the most impressive of which is seven total state titles, once under Finfrock as the head coach.

“I think that Doug is a really good coach,” goalkeeper Hannah McCarly said. “He’s easily one of my favorite coaches that I’ve played for. Not only does he understand the game really well, but he has real experience and is real compassionate and it drives us to really want to play hard, not only for our team but for him as well.”

This season, RCC garnered impressive statistics across the board such as 233 goals scored across 22 games. The defense has also impressed with 213 total steals nearly rounding out to about 10 per game, as well as 229 saves, which is third most in the state.

“I think (our success) starts with our goalkeeping,” Finfrock said. “We have Hannah McCarley in the cage, she’s a solid All-American from last season. Without a doubt I think that she’s the best goalkeeper in the state of California. Nikkol Webber is another sophomore returning that has a good wealth of experience and she has been solid for us this year. We have Hannah Peercy who came down from Utah. She has a lot of ability and is coming into her own at this point. Also Madison Button who I think has a promising future with us next season.”

Even in the few defeats that the Tigers faced, they never lost by more than four points in any of those games. Meanwhile, RCC managed to garner 11 total wins of their overall 16 games where they outscored their opponents by five or more points.

Sophomore center Kate Fox has been a huge driving force for the offense this season as she leads the team in total goals scored with 56. Defenders Webber and Peercy follow just behind Fox on goals with 36 and 32 goals scored respectively. Fox was also the recipient for RCC Student-Athlete Advisory Council Student-Athlete of the Month award for September of 2018.

“I have really stepped up my center game and have been getting more shots off that I wasn’t getting last year,” Fox said. “My ability to stay in set has grown substantially. Those two things together have really helped me.”

The team has overall been receptive to Finfrock’s style of coaching, who is no stranger as of late to the success that the women’s water polo team has garnered in recent years.

“Coach Finfrock is an awesome coach,” Peercy said. “He definitely knows what he is talking about. He’s very straight forward with us. He’s great about helping us figure out what’s going wrong and is great about getting us to understand the plays.”

With the playoffs now next on the radar, RCC will look to perform accordingly at the OEC Championships. A successful campaign would see the Tigers advance to the Southern California championships which takes place from Nov. 8-10 at the Cerritos College campus. After that? The California Community College Athletic Association State championships.

“We’ve proven that we can get there,” Finfrock said. “Out of the many years that I have coached here we’ve won a championship in 13 of those years, so we know what it takes to get there. I don’t think we’ve set too lofty a goal. We’d love to have a conference championship, I’d love to have a regional championship, those are all great things, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the state championship.”