Wahine 2001 schedule
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
Four years ago, University of Hawaii womens water polo coach Shari Smart was given the keys to an empty office at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.
Since then, Smart has run one of the schools most successful athletic programs.
In 1998, Hawaii finished fourth at the Womens National Collegiate Water Polo Championships. The Wahine finished eighth in 1999, and ninth this past season.
"Weve actually accomplished a lot in three short years," Smart said. "Our first season when we came out fourth, the expectations were wed be able to do that all the time."
Hawaii was one of many womens water polo programs formed recently to meet federal gender equity requirements in athletics.
"Its the fastest growing sport in NCAA history," Smart said. "Its growing by leaps and bounds with new programs almost monthly."
Smart said the number of womens varsity teams has grown from about 40 in 1998, to 60 in 2001. Each program is allowed eight scholarships.
The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which Hawaii has been a member of since its inaugural season, is also expanding.
"The MPSF is growing as we speak," Smart said. "UC Irvine will be new to the conference this year. Arizona State will be added next year as will probably Arizona."
Last season, the conference placed all 10 teams among the top 20 in the country, including eight of the top 10.
Getting to the national championships this season will be more difficult because the NCAA will sponsor its first final four. In previous years, eight teams from the West, and three each from the Midwest and East qualified for the national championships.
The format will be similar to the mens volleyball national championships. The winner of the MPSF tournament, which Hawaii will play host to on April 27-29, will receive an automatic bid. The winners of the Eastern Water Polo Association, and an association comprised of Division II and III teams will also qualify. An at-large team, most likely from the MPSF, will also be selected.
The Wahine open their season tomorrow at Princeton. Their first home match will be Feb. 15 against UC San Diego.
Smart said Hawaiis top players are Andrea Nishioka, Christi Bardecki and Eko Lapp.
"I feel were a much better team than we were last year," Smart said. "We have a lot of go-to players. Were going to end up with a more balanced team. We have a lot more offense and were coming together as a team."
Last season, the Wahine finished 22-15 overall and 3-6 in the MPSF.
"I want to see how the team will do this year," said Nishioka, a senior co-captain. "Hopefully, well do well because of the personnel we have.
"We started our first year fourth at the nationals. Were still working our way back up there."
UH water polo schedule
8-at Princeton. Feb 10-11-at Princeton Tournament. 15-UC San Diego. 17-UC San Diego. 28-Pacific Storm (Canada).
3-Pacific Storm (Canada). 9-at UC Irvine* and Redlands Tournament (vs. Villanova and Redlands). 10-at UCLA*. 15-USC*. 16-Rainbow Challenge (USC vs. Washington, 5 p.m.; California Baptist vs. Hawaii, 6:15 p.m.). 17-Rainbow Challenge (USC vs. California Baptist, 9 a.m.; Washington vs. Hawaii, 10:15 a.m.; California Baptist vs. Washington, 5 p.m.; USC vs. Hawaii, 6:15 p.m. 25-at Santa Clara and San Jose State*. 26-at UC Santa Cruz and Stanford*. 31-California*.
12-at UC Santa Barbara*. 14-at Long Beach State* and Long Beach State Tournament. 15-at Long Beach State Tournament. 21-Pacific*. 22-San Diego State*. 27-29-MPSF Championships at Honolulu.
11-13-NCAA Championships at Stanford, Calif.
*-denotes Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match
All home matches will be at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex, and will start at 6 p.m., unless noted.
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