When the Golden Coast Conference released its 2020 women’s water polo preseason coaches’ poll in January, California Baptist University checked in at sixth out of eight teams. Those are some rather low expectations for a team that appears to have quite a bit going for it.
The University of the Pacific received seven of eight first-place votes, as they are expected to take home a fourth consecutive GCC title. However, with the Lancers hosting the conference tournament for the first time in late April, the Tigers will have to travel to Riverside to keep their streak alive.
The Lancers, who are currently ranked No. 25 in the nation, might just have all the right ingredients for a surprise run in their home pool coming April.
Hosting a conference water polo tournament seems to be a good idea for CBU water polo. The men’s team hosted the Western Water Polo Association Championships for the first time in November and secured a third-place finish—the highest finish in program history.
The women’s team will be hoping that the benefits of playing at home rub off on them as well, but there is more than just location giving Lancer fans cause for excitement. The Lancers also got off to their best start in NCAA-era history, going 4-2 in their first six games of the season.
The last time CBU went 4-2 to start a season was pre-NCAA, and it was also the year the Lancers set the record for most single-season wins in the program ‘s history.
Prior to the 2019 season, CBU women’s water polo head coach Jonathan Miller described his team as young and talented. This year, the Lancers are still talented, but not quite as young anymore.
The 2018 first-team All-American and 2020 all-conference honorable mention goalkeeper Grace Ramirez, senior kinesiology major, is now in her final year at CBU and has snagged two of the first four GCC Player of the Week awards this season.
In her first season as an upperclassman, now three-year starter Kira O’Donell, junior behavioral science major and attacker, is the Lancers’ top goal-scorer. She picked up her second All-American nod in 2018, becoming the first Division I All-American in the history of the program.
CBU has been a regular in the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s top-25 rankings and is consistently in the top half of its conference. However, if there was ever a year to go where no Lancers women’s water polo team has gone before, then the 2020 might just be that year.