CSU is not known across the country as a water polo school, as its women’s varsity program is in only its fourth year of existence. But this weekend Fort Collins will be hosting the inaugural CSU Hilton Invitational featuring three teams from both the East and West coasts.
“We’re really pleased to have pulled this off in only our fourth year of existence,” said head coach John Mattos. “You never know if you’re going to be able to get any teams to come to Colorado, since we’re located outside of most teams’ competition area. Colorado of course has its lure and we’re lucky to get some good representation from some East Coast teams.”
The East Coast brings Bucknell University from Pennsylvania and Marist University from New York to this weekend’s tournament at E.P.I.C. Santa Cruz University from California will represent the West Coast.
“Most of our other games this season will be against teams from the West Coast, so it will be a little different and exciting to play some schools from the East Coast this time,” said sophomore goalkeeper Krytyna McCright.
Marist and Bucknell are both Division I programs with Marist winning a school-record 24 games last season. Santa Cruz is a Division III school, which plays in the same conference as CSU.
The Rams’ overall record currently stands at 0-5, and they are 0-1 in league play in the Western Water Polo Association. All of the other three teams will begin their season play at the tournament.
“We haven’t seen any of the other teams play yet, so we’re hoping we match-up well with them,” Mattos said. “They’ll be fresh and will have that first-game enthusiasm, so we’ll have to bring our own defensive enthusiasm.
Mattos is hoping the high altitude of Colorado will give the other teams some trouble and provide the Rams with an advantage.
“They may jump out on us in the beginning especially since it will be their first game, but we’ll use our perseverance and the altitude to get back into it,” Mattos said. “The altitude may get to them, but we’re used to it here.
Saturday will be played as a round robin, each of the four teams playing each other once. Sunday is the championship tournament, with the top two teams from the round robin awarded the number one and two seeds.
“This is our first home tournament and we’re all really excited,” McCright said. “Practice has been clicking and after our game with UCSD, we’re ready to show everyone what we can do.”
Mattos expects a big fan turnout to show up and support the Rams.
“We had a really good turnout for our first home game against UCSD, and I’m anticipating another big crowd to show up this weekend,” he said.
The first sprint on Saturday is set for 8 a.m. with CSU facing off against Santa Cruz. Sunday action begins at 7:30 a.m., concluding with the championship game at 1:15 p.m. All games will be played at EPIC.
Staff writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.