It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. The Otter Women’s Water Polo team finished its home portion of the schedule at the beloved Otter Tank well. The team picked up quality wins over the visiting Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes and Colorado State Rams.
For those who haven’t followed the water polo program, their competition is a bit different from what other Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) teams face. The program competes in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) as the CCAA doesn’t support water polo in its current configuration. This means the Otters regularly take on Division I programs such as Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University, and Colorado State.
This season has been one to cheer about for CSUMB water polo followers. Prior to heading into WWPA Tournament play, which will be held at UC San Diego from April 27-29, the Otters are 17-13 (6-7 WWPA). The Otters have assured themselves they will finish above .500 for the first time since 2008 when they finished 18-14.
Head coach Gary Figueroa, who is in his eighth season as head coach, considers this to be a “benchmark year” for the program. “We have continued to close the gap on the best teams in our conference,” said Figueroa.
Much of this success must be attributed to the atmosphere at the Otter Tank as fans have often filled up the stands. “The support we have seen this year at home has been huge for us. Our wins over Concordia Irvine and CSU East Bay a couple of weeks back at the Tank was our best home ‘day’ in history,” said Figueroa.
When preparing for the playoffs, it’s advantageous to go in with some sort of momentum. Certainly, getting wins over the Coyotes and Rams at home should set a tone. “Those were very big. The team is more consistent than we have ever been. That’s important for our confidence,” said Figueroa.
Also part of the weekend’s festivities at the Otter Tank was the annual Alumni Game. Players from years past competed against the Otters of present in a fun-filled, sun-soaked, Sunday afternoon. Chloe McCrae, who has served as the SID contact for the team this year, participated as an Alum in the game. McCrae competed for the Otters for all four years of her academic career at CSUMB and graduated in 2011 with a degree in Kinesiology.
The present Otters beat the Alumni team by a final score of 15-11 but it was all in good fun. “As a first year alumni myself, it was a great experience playing in the game and I can’t wait to come back and do it again next year,” said McCrae.
Now it’s back to the serious competition as the team prepares for the WWPA tournament. It appears the Otters will be seeded sixth, which would be their highest seed in program history. In a season of growth, Figueroa and the team looks forward to the opportunity to make a statement. “LMU is favored to win but after that almost anything is possible. We’ve been close to or beaten everyone else,” said Figueroa.