The women’s water polo team will join the Women’s Water Polo Association (WWPA) for the 2015-16 academic year.
Joining the WWPA will allow the team to compete against other Division II schools in the country including Gannon University, University of California San Diego, California State Monterey Bay, California State East Bay and Sonoma State University.
The Lakers will also have a chance to compete for a spot in the NCAA Collegiate Water Polo Championship.
For Head Coach Curtis Robinette, entering his 13th season as the women’s water polo head coach, this is a huge opportunity for the whole program.
“I appreciate all the hard work the current members of the WWPA have done to make this opportunity a reality,” said Robinette. “This conference is creating a giant step forward in the potential growth of Division II water polo.”
Robinette has recorded over 100 wins as a head coach and has won 10 or more games in nine of the past 11 seasons.
Mercyhurst Athletic Director Joe Kimball is also excited for the women’s team.
“We are excited to move into a conference that gives our student-athletes the opportunity to compete against similarly funded institutions and removing hurdles that prevented the women from a meaningful championship experience,” Kimball said.
Junior Aleeyse Utech looks to capitalize on this opportunity. Utech played in all 31 games in 2013 recording a total of 16 goals with 14 assists along with 25 steals and five field blocks.
“It is an amazing opportunity for the team to show that we are good enough to compete with some of the best Division II schools in the country,” Utech said. “It’s nice to be able to play against teams with similar programs rather than playing Division I schools.”
Playing teams at the Division I level such as Princeton, Harvard, Penn State and Michigan has brought stiff competition to the Lady Lakers.
“It’s tough playing the bigger schools, most of the girls are a lot bigger than us,” Utech said. “I think we will do better after joining the WWPA.”
Having played a few teams from the WWPA in the past, the team has a better grasp of what the new competition will be.
“I think we will do much better the next time we play them because we have a bigger and deeper team since they last saw us,” Utech said.
The WWPA commissioner Christy Medigovich believes that Mercyhurst will bring great success to the conference.
“We are pleased, and we are proud to welcome Mercyhurst University women’s water polo to the family of the Western Water Polo Association,” said Medigovich. “In Mercyhurst, we have added an institution with a strong academic reputation and athletic tradition.”