Women’s water polo wins conference, is ready for nationals


Giang Do

Augustana Vikings Water Polo team practice hard in the Peter J. Lindberg Auditorium.

Timothy Wallis

In only their second season as a program, the women’s water polo team won the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) title. The team cruised through the season with a 16-5 overall record and a 7-1 conference record, earning the number one-seed in the CWPA DIII Championships. The team beat Carthage College and 10th-ranked Macalester College in their first two conference tournament games to push them into the championship game.

They would have to face a familiar foe: Austin College in St. Paul, Minnesota for the CWPA title. On April 23, they defeated seventh-ranked Austin by a score of 16-8 in the conference championship game, a massive accomplishment for a second-year program.

“Honestly, it felt unreal. That whole tournament, we played the best I think we have ever played before, and to come out on top and win by a significant number of goals was such a great feeling. I’m so proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished,” Sophomore co-captain Lizzie Pelzman said.

Women’s water polo won the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) conference title on April 23. Photo courtesy of Augie Athletics.

Sophomore Casey Barragan scored a team-high six goals in the championship game, which helped her win the honors of the tournament’s most valuable player. Barragan, Pelzman and sophomore Annie Opal Dickson were named to the First-Team all-tournament section for their play during the team’s conference tournament games.

“I am proud of it, but I wish everyone on the team could get it because it was all a collective effort to do it,” Barragan said. “So as much as I love being named it, and I’m proud of myself for being named it, I do think that everyone should have been at least considered for it.”

The team also felt a sense of pride for defeating Austin College. If the game didn’t have enough stakes already, this game was more than just playing for the title. They were playing for payback for last year’s team. Last year, Austin defeated Augustana in the CWPA championship game, a moment that stuck with team members. One player that it stuck with was sophomore co-captain Charlotte Newport.

“That feels really awesome. I’m not going to lie. That was one of our goals this year, and we wanted to beat Austin,” Newport said. “It’s a really great feeling knowing how far we’ve come, but again, it’s just another team. It’s just another win.”

Next, the team plays in the National DIII Tournament, starting on Saturday, May 6, at Augustana in the Anne Greve Lund Natatorium. Hosting the national tournament means the best DIII teams from around
the country that qualify will come to Rock Island for the tournament, an experience that brings excitement to the team.

“I’m really happy about it because we don’t have to travel,” Barragan said. “But it’s also that I know a lot of parents are able to come out here, and my friends are gonna be able to come to the game, whereas if we traveled anywhere else, they would have had to watch a live stream.”

A national championship title is not far from sight for the Vikings as they start in the semi-finals. They can make history if they play their best and compete how they have been. For only a second-year program, winning the conference and going to the national championships is an awe-inspiring feat.

The team is determined to focus on their next game and doesn’t want to look too far ahead. Especially in the postseason, looking too far ahead can distract them and lead to a challenging games.

However, the Vikings and the coaches have been good about staying in the moment and taking it one game at a time.

“Our coaches are very good about keeping us calm and level-headed,” Newport said. “They really help us not worry so much about who we’re playing but just the fact that we have to play a game.”