CLAREMONT, Calif. – In each of the last two years, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team's season has come to an end short of the SCIAC tournament championship game. With an experienced, deep team back in 2013, the Athenas have their eyes set toward a SCIAC championship game appearance and a possible NCAA postseason bid.
"I think the youth of our team has finally grown up and should now put us in a place where we should be competing for a SCIAC championship," said head coach Greg Lonzo. "We have the potential to make it to the NCAA Tournament by winning our conference."
Ranked No. 2 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III poll along with Occidental and behind rival Pomona-Pitzer, the Athenas are expected to be toward the top of the SCIAC and Division III this season.
A large part of the optimism that surrounds this year's team has to do with the core group of players that return which include a pair of All-Americans in junior utility Candace Fillppelli (CMC) and junior driver Alex Toohey (CMC).
"I think the expectation is that those two [players] are going to continue to improve and continue to step up and kind of define our team in a sense and make our team either that SCIAC Championship team or a runner-up in the SCIAC."
Also expected to play important roles this season are senior utility Jeanne Kelber (CMC), sophomore utility Haley Conner (CMC) and sophomore driver Rose Koper (CMC). Kelber is the lone senior and will be relied upon for her skill and leadership.
"I think our leadership is fantastic," said Lonzo. "While we only have a one senior, she [Kelber] has been with us for four years so she is very focused and very good at keeping everybody on the same page and working toward the same goals."
CMS finished last season at 14-16 overall and 5-5 in SCIAC play. To improve its record from 2012 and reach its ultimate goal, they will have to overcome a tough non-conference schedule that includes games against several Division I teams and a SCIAC field that is deep as usual.