The Azusa Pacific women’s water polo team finished the Saturday, Feb. 9 Whittier Invitational with wins against Redlands and La Verne, and a loss to Whittier. The team now holds a 3-4 overall record in the 2014 season as a member of the new Golden Coast Conference, which began competition in 2014 with six other California universities.
The GCC includes Azusa Pacific, California Baptist, Fresno Pacific, Loyola Marymount, San Diego State, Santa Clara and Pacific.
With the mix of Division I and Division II teams in the conference, the Cougars will compete for one automatic berth in the NCAA national championship tournament. The tournament includes Division I, II and III universities. However, APU will not be eligible for postseason play until 2015 due to NCAA membership rules.
This season will mark the first time in the water polo program’s five-year history it will be a member of a conference, since it competed in the NAIA with no conference affiliation.
Head coach Julie Snodgrass believes the raised level of competition will be good for her program.
“When we’re playing top-10 contenders in our conference, it’s good for us because we are elevating our level of play. So if and when we do win our conference, we will have beaten top-tier teams and actually be able to compete,” Snodgrass said.
With the raised level of competition, wins will not come easy for the Cougars, but Snodgrass said they are ready for the challenge.
“It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be fun,” Snodgrass said. “We’ll really be able to raise our level of a standard as a program, playing against four of five teams in our conference that are in the top 20 nationwide.”
The Cougars’ first Golden Coast Conference matchup will be March 21 when they host fellow Division II member Fresno Pacific.