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January 21, 2009 > Cal State East Bay Water Polo preview

Cal State East Bay Water Polo preview

By Idorenyin Uto-Uko

The Cal State East Women's Water Polo team is the reigning Division III National Champions and look poised to jump into national title contention again in 2009.

"I think we have a good chance to be back on top," said CSEB Coach Lisa Derossi-Cooper. The team beat state rival Cal Lutheran of Southern California in a dramatic four-overtime, 7-6, win in the national championship game in 2008.

Derossi-Cooper, last year's National Coach of the Year, lost 10 players to graduation, but returns four of the teams top scorers in twin sisters, Mary (58goals-27assists) and Ana Rossa (22 goals-25 assists), as well as Liz Warren (40 goals-16 assists) and Jenna Gelet (5goals-9 assist). Also, returning from the national champion team will be national player of the year, Ellie Wilhelmsen.

Wilhelmsen will serve as assistant coach for the Pioneers this season. The All-American goalies' experience and expertise will be a great assistance to her former team.

"Having Ellie around is really great," said Coach Derossi-Cooper. "She has a lot to offer our new team members."

Joining the 2009 team are six junior-college transfers: Lauren Merrill, Jenna Casady, Simone Jackson, Lauren Griffin, Brianna Finney and Amber Gray. Both Casady and Jackson are East Bay products. Casady a Livermore native, attended Diablo Valley College; and Jackson considers Brentwood as her hometown.

The ladies will dip into the water this Saturday, Jan. 24, in their season and home opener against Santa Clara University. Santa Clara is a traditional Division I powerhouse; and historically, CSEB has not faired well against their local opponent.

Cal State East Bay Pioneers do not shy away from nationally-ranked competition. They have played other Division I institutions such as the University of the Pacific, Colorado State and Cal State Bakersfield.

CSEB beat Bakersfield last season, who, at the time, was ranked 19 in the nation, in Division I.

"This year's team definitely has a different style of play. We have a great group of women," Derossi-Cooper said. "I'm interested to see how they play, and how far we can go."

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