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BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — In 2020, eight teams competed for the women’s Big Ten Division title with Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin fielding single squads, while the University of Michigan entered both “A” and “B” teams.

HISTORY:  The Big Ten Division became part of the CWPA prior to the 2010 season after previously competing as an independent group for a number of seasons.  In the history of the group, three teams have claimed the division crown since its acceptance into the CWPA league fold as Michigan (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) reeled off a series of championships prior to Ohio State (2017, 2018) and Michigan State (2019) clawing their way past the Wolverines over the past three completed seasons.

At the National Collegiate Club Championship, the Big Ten Division has experienced significant success as Michigan State holds three titles (2001, 2002, 2006) and has finished second twice (2000, 2003).  More recently, Michigan has made is mark by earning a trio of runner-up placements (2010, 2014, 2016) since the Big Ten schools were admitted as league members in 2010.

Big Ten Division Champion/Runner-Up

  • 2010 – University of Michigan / Michigan State University
  • 2011 – University of Michigan / University of Illinois
  • 2012 – University of Michigan / University of Illinois
  • 2013 – University of Michigan / University of Illinois
  • 2014 – University of Michigan / Michigan State University
  • 2015 – University of Michigan / Michigan State University
  • 2016 – University of Michigan / Michigan State University
  • 2017 – The Ohio State University / University of Michigan
  • 2018 – The Ohio State University / University of Michigan
  • 2019 – Michigan State University / University of Michigan

National Collegiate Club Champion/Runner-Up

  • 2000 – University of Washington / Michigan State University
  • 2001 – Michigan State University / University of Florida
  • 2002 – Michigan State University / California Polytechnic State University
  • 2003 – California Polytechnic State University / Michigan State University
  • 2006 – Michigan State University / University of Florida
  • 2010 – California Polytechnic State University / University of Michigan
  • 2014 – San Diego State University / University of Michigan
  • 2016 – University of California-Santa Barbara / University of Michigan

THE TEAMS: Among the leading centers of research in the United States, the schools of the Big Ten Division offer a buffet of academic, athletic and social opportunities unmatched by peer institutions.  Spanning Illinois (Illinois), Indiana (Purdue), Iowa (Iowa), Michigan (Michigan, Michigan State), Ohio (Ohio State) and Wisconsin (Wisconsin), the seven schools and eight programs as of 2020 provide university-level academic opportunities and close-knit water polo teams for athletes from around the country and the globe.

Michigan State University

The 2019 Big Ten Division Champion, a four-time division runner-up (2010, 2014, 2015, 2016), a three-time National Collegiate Club Champion (2001, 2002, 2006) and two-time National Championship runner-up (2000, 2003), the Spartans of Michigan State University rate as the most successful women’s collegiate club program in the history of the Big Ten Division.

Fielding a roster that combines a diverse cavalcade of majors, ages and water polo backgrounds – with several athletes taking up the sport for the first time – the Michigan State program has provided an opportunity for women’s water polo competition since the team’s founding in 1993.

“Whether you are just starting out or have been playing for years, there is a place for everyone on this team,” states junior Leslie Schuchardt. “This program has defined my college experience and has given me an opportunity to play the sport I love at a collegiate level.”

Unlike the University of Michigan or former division member Indiana University which both fields varsity programs, the self-funded Michigan State squad has exclusively been a national power on the collegiate club level.

Led by three-time Big Ten Division head coach Matt Latham – who claimed the award in 2018 and 2019 for the men and picked up the 2019 women’s accolade – the Spartans captured the division crown for the first time last year by upending nemesis Michigan in the league title game.

“We’re more than just a team, we’re a family and we’re always there for each other,” notes junior Nicole Cassidy.

Graduating seven seniors in 2020, MSU will look to reload for another title run in 2021 as the 2020 season was cut-short due to the Coronavirus.

“I adore everything about this team. We’re such a family and it shows in the pool. I love the team dynamic, we work so well in and out of the pool, which reflects in our playing a lot. I wish we were able to finish out the season, but I think it gives us the opportunity to come back stronger next year,” per senior Hannah Frazier

“This team has defined my college experience. I wouldn’t have been the same without water polo. I’m lucky enough to have been a captain this year and the strength our team has shown in the bond we have during such a hard time proves this team is as great as I think it is. Seeing this group of ladies playing my favorite sport every day has been a gift,” adds senior Abby Parsons.

Located in East Lansing, Michigan, Michigan State is true to the school’s motto, “Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives”, as the school founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, one of the country’s first institutions of higher education to teach scientific agriculture, has expanded its curriculum to over 200 fields of study. Among the largest universities in the United States with close to 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled during an academic year, the school now has approximately 634,300 living alumni worldwide.

Although successful in the pool, MSU’s performance in the classroom is unrivaled as U.S. News & World Report ranked its graduate programs the best in the U.S. in elementary teacher’s education, secondary teacher’s education, industrial and organizational psychology, rehabilitation counseling, African history, supply chain logistics and nuclear physics in 2019. MSU pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, supply chain management, and communication sciences. The university’s campus houses the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, the Abrams Planetarium, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and the country’s largest residence hall system.

Further, Michigan State’s study abroad program is among the 10 largest of any single-campus university in the United States with 2,755.

The school utilizes a rolling admissions system, with an early admission deadline in October. For the Class of 2022 (enrolling Fall 2018), MSU received 33,129 applications and accepted 25,733 (77.7%), with 8,688 enrolling.

For more information on the Michigan State women’s collegiate club team, contact either Leslie Schuchardt (schuch14@msu.edu) or head coach Matt Latham (msupolocoach@gmail.com).

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Purdue University

Purdue University was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology and agriculture in his name.  The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students with the school now boasting 3,055 academic instructors and 43,411 students on the main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The school offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates, over 69 masters and doctoral programs, and professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. In addition, Purdue has more than 900 student organizations and enrolls the second largest student body of any university in Indiana, as well as the fourth largest foreign student population of any university in the United States.

Purdue offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in over 211 major areas of study, and is well known for its competitive engineering curricula. The university has also been integral in America’s history of aviation, having established the first college credit offered in flight training; the first four-year bachelor’s degree in aviation; and the first university airport: Purdue University Airport. Purdue’s aviation technology and aeronautical engineering programs remain among the most competitive aviation-specific programs in the world. In the mid-20th century, Purdue’s aviation program expanded to encompass advanced spaceflight technology, giving rise to Purdue’s nicknames Cradle of Astronauts. 23 Purdue graduates have become astronauts, including Gus Grissom, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts; Neil Armstrong, who was the first person to walk on the moon; and Eugene Cernan, who was the last person to walk on the moon.

Associated with 13 Nobel Prizes, the Boilermakers are a diverse mix of students. Last year, 8,562 students from 126 different countries around the world came to Purdue University.  In 2012–13, 19,689 out of a total of 39,256 students enrolled were Indiana residents.  Further, among the undergraduate students, 42.6% were female.

For more information on the Purdue women’s collegiate club team, contact either Catherine Carroll (carrol59@purdue.edu) or Morgan Kelly (kelly263@purdue.edu).

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  • Website (https://boilerlink.purdue.edu/organization/waterpoloclubwomens)

The Ohio State University

The 2017 and 2018 Big Ten Division Champion Buckeyes of The Ohio State University are among three teams to capture the division crown joining the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

Consistently near the top of the division over the past several seasons, Ohio State was founded in 1870 as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The college originally focused on various agricultural and mechanical disciplines but it developed into a comprehensive university under the direction of then-Governor (later, United State President) Rutherford B. Hayes, and in 1878 the Ohio General Assembly passed a law changing the name to “The Ohio State University”. The main campus in Columbus, Ohio, has since grown into the third-largest university campus in the United States.

Ohio State operates the North America’s 18th-largest university research library with a combined collection of over 5.8 million volumes. Additionally, the libraries regularly receive about 35,000 serial titles. Its recent acquisitions were 16th among university research libraries in North America. Along with 21 libraries on its Columbus campus, the university has eight branches at off-campus research facilities and regional campuses, and a book storage depository near campus. In all, the Ohio State library system encompasses 55 branches and specialty collections. Some more significant collections include The Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program, which has the archives of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and other polar research materials; The Hilandar Research Library, which has the world’s largest collection of medieval Slavic manuscripts on microform; the Ohio State Cartoon Library & Museum, the world’s largest repository of original cartoons; The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute; and the archives of Senator John Glenn.

The Ohio State University is among the top 12 U.S. public research universities and third among all universities in industry-sponsored research.  It is also named as one of the most innovative universities in the nation placing seventh among public universities and 11th overall, while also ranking third among all American universities for private industry sponsored research. Research facilities include Aeronautical/Astronautical Research Laboratory, Byrd Polar Research Center, Center for Automotive Research (OSU CAR), Chadwick Arboretum, Biomedical Research Tower, Biological Sciences Building, CDME, Comprehensive Cancer Center, David Heart and Lung Research Institute, Electroscience Laboratory, Large Binocular Telescope (LBT, originally named the Columbus Project), Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Museum of Biological Diversity, National Center for the Middle Market, Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island, OH, Center for Urban and Regional Analysis and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

The university has an extensive student life program, with over 1,000 student organizations; intercollegiate, club and recreational sports programs; student media organizations and publications, fraternities and sororities; and three student governments.

Undergraduate admissions to Ohio State are classified as the most selective for any public university in Ohio as 67% of incoming freshmen in autumn 2017 were ranked in the top 10% of their high school class. Ohio State’s freshman class has included at least 100 National Merit Scholars for nine of the last ten years.

For more information on the Ohio State women’s collegiate club team, contact either Rachael Farber (farber.78@osu.edu) or Jory Gould (gould.200@osu.edu)

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University of Illinois

A three-time Big Ten Division runner-up (2011, 2012, 2013), the University of Illinois (also known as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, is the flagship institution of the University of Illinois system and was founded in 1867.

“I love being a part of Illini Women’s Water Polo Club” noted Ashley Helminnski, “because when you are around the team, you don’t have to worry about everything that is stressing you out. Whether it be school or work, you can take a break, get a workout, and spend time with some amazing girls. The team is full of girls who can play an intense game of polo, give you professional advice, and hangout over the weekends. It’s this team’s balance and bond that has really relieved a lot of stress and helped me navigate through college.”

A major center of research, the campus library system possesses the second-largest university library in the United States by holdings after Harvard University.  Further, the university also hosts the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and is home to the fastest supercomputer on a university campus.

The university offers more than 150 undergraduate and 100 graduate and professional programs in over 15 academic units, among several online specializations such as Digital Marketing and an online MBA program launched in January 2016.

Affiliated with 30 Nobel laureates, two Turing Award winners and 1 Fields medalist, Illinois recently added a medical school as the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine began classes in 2018.  In addition, the school also operates a Research Park home to innovation centers for over 90 start-up companies and multinational corporations, including Abbott, AbbVie, Caterpillar, Capital One, Dow, State Farm, and Yahoo, among others.

According to Sinead Soltis, who will work as a forest transportation engineer for the Cherokee National Forest and spend her first summer away from her home on the south side of Chicago this summer, “water polo has brought together some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met, all which have taught me how to make time for schoolwork, a club sport and still have time to have fun with my teammates/friends,”

As of spring 2018, the university had 45,813 students. As of 2015, over 10,000 students were international students, and of them 5,295 were Mainland Chinese – more than any other American university. The university also recruits students from over 100 countries among its 32,878 undergraduate students and 10,245 graduate and professional students.

For more information on the Illinois women’s collegiate club team, contact either Rebecca Kasner (rkasner2@illinois.edu) or the Illinois club account (illiniwaterpolo@gmail.com)

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  • Website (https://illinois.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/illiniwomenswaterpolo)

University of Iowa

Founded in 1847 and located in Iowa City, Iowa, the University of Iowa (which is formally known as the State University of Iowa) is the oldest and the second largest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into 12 colleges offering more than 200 areas of study and seven professional degrees.

The university is best known for its programs in health care, law, and the fine arts, with programs ranking among the top 25 nationally in those areas. The university was the original developer of the Master of Fine Arts degree and it operates the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which has produced 17 of the university’s 46 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Among American universities, the University of Iowa was the first public university to open as coeducational in 1855, opened the first coeducational medical school, and opened the first Department of Religious Studies at a public university. In addition, Iowa was the world’s first university to accept creative work in theater, writing, music, and art on an equal basis with academic research.

The university has educated many of the state’s professionals including 79% of Iowa’s dentists, 50% of Iowa’s physicians, 48% of Iowa’s pharmacists, as well as teachers and administrators in each of the state’s K–12 school districts.

For more information on the Iowa women’s collegiate club team, contact either Mara O’Connor (mara-oconnor@uiowa.edu) or the Olivia Eiken (olivia-eiken@uiowa.edu)

  • Website (https://uiowa.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/water-polo-club-u-of-i-women-s)

University of Michigan

A seven-time Big Ten Division Champion (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and three-time runner-up (2017, 2018, 2019), the University of Michigan has never finished outside the top two teams in the history of the women’s collegiate club Big Ten Division.

A three-time National Collegiate Club Championship runner-up (2010, 2014, 2016), the Wolverines’ success in the water is matched only by their performance out of it through community service.

In 2020, Michigan fielded both “A” and “B” teams to permit all athletes who wanted to compete an opportunity to compete.

“As a no-cut team, we make sure that we give every athlete an equal opportunity to train, compete, learn and really become part of our community,” said junior and treasurer Natalie Vadasz.  “From the small amount of in-water practices to our weekly “zoom practices”, we strive to support each other in every way possible. We really are more than just a team. We’re a family.”

In the fall led by senior Emily Lerner in cooperation with relay captains sophomore Edie Lerner and freshman Madeline Singh, the team started the UM Club Water Polo Relay for Life team. Around 25 percent of the  program’s players chose to be part of the charitable team and helped to raise over $700 during the course of the Coronavirus shortened season by organizing bake sales and restaurant fundraisers. For their efforts, the team was awarded the Spirit of Relay Award at the end of this year which is only given to two Relay for Life teams who showed the most individual initiative in terms of fundraising and forming teams.

Senior and club president Sam Gould states she loves playing on this team because “it is a great way to combine physical activity, competition, and a way to make new friends.”

Fellow senior and captain Genevieve Curry’s adds the top reason she loved playing club water polo at Michigan is all about “the team, the team, the team  – I loved playing with the girls” over her three seasons.

Led by sophomore Rylee Brower, senior Arija Walsh and Curry in 2020, the Wolverines are the only Big Ten Division women’s club to share the pool with another team as Michigan also fields a varsity program in the CWPA.

The oldest university in the state of Michigan, the school was founded in 1817 in Detroit, Michigan, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 and has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet.

As of October 2019, 25 Nobel Prize winners, six Turing Award winners and one Fields Medalist have been affiliated with the school. Its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as professional degrees in architecture, business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work, public health and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni comprises more than 540,000 people, one of the largest alumni bases of any university in the world.

Admissions are highly competitive, with an admit rate of 22.8%. In recent years, annual numbers of applications for freshman admission have exceeded 65,000. Around 15,000 students are admitted annually, with a target freshman class of more than 6,000 students. Students come from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries.  The university has an enrollment of 44,718 students: 28,983 undergraduate students, 12,565 graduate students and 2,665 first professional students as full-time students make up about 97 percent of the student body and the university has a first-time student retention rate of 97 percent.

For more information on the Iowa women’s collegiate club team, contact either Sam Gould (samgould@umich.edu) or Natalie Vadasz (nvadasz@umich.edu).

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University of Wisconsin

Among a few all-female water polo teams in the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin provides a unique opportunity for its members to play the sport of water polo.  Many of the Badgers start off their freshmen or sophomore years with no prior experience in the sport.  However, the team holds tryouts and welcomes anyone to join the team.

Thanks to a wide variety of skill levels and age groups, the team seeks to find a balance between challenging experienced players and educating new players while remaining competitive in the league.

“I loved playing for this team and having the opportunity to teach other people the sport that we all love,” states senior Kira Chavez. “We were able to bring new people to the sport and it was so much fun to watch them improve. I am grateful for my time on this team”.

Classmate Breanna Grady echos the sentiment, “I loved playing on this team for four years because of the people that are there. We focus on making sure everyone is enjoying themselves while we are increasing our water polo skills. I also appreciate that we let every team member play every game.”

“What makes our program special is that we’re focused on being inclusive and having fun more than being competitive,” explains senior Mathilde Mogensen. “This was definitely an adjustment from my high school experience, but has been my rock throughout college.”

The familiar relationship of a club team is a cornerstone of the Badgers’ program.

Per junior Maria Rantis, “I love playing because I love the sport so much and the team,” . Being apart of this team makes me feel really loved and known and it’s just plain old fun.”

Sophomore Alex Sehl contributes, “This team is the perfect balance of being relaxed and fun yet still is serious enough to be competitive and see improvements each year.”

Led in the water polo by Chavez, Lauren Maischoss, Mogensen, Sehl, Brynn Walther, Issy Wise and Jessie Taft, Wisconsin also gives back by serving the community through various charities including local Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity chapters.

“The emphasis that this team places on the well-being of its players is very special,” adds senior Sam Zaug. “Everyone who joins has the opportunity to learn and grow as a person through the sport of water polo in a warm and supportive community.

Founded in 1848 when Wisconsin achieved statehood and located in Madison, Wisconsin, the school remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. Located on the shores of Lake Mendota, UW–Madison is organized into 20 schools and colleges, which enrolled 30,361 undergraduate and 14,052 graduate students in 2018. Its academic programs include 136 undergraduate majors, 148 master’s degree programs and 120 doctoral programs. A major contributor to Wisconsin’s economy, the university is the largest employer in the state with over 21,600 faculty and staff.

As of March 2020, 25 Nobel laureates, two Fields medalists and one Turing award winner have been associated with UW–Madison as alumni, faculty, or researchers. Additionally, the current CEOs of 14 Fortune 500 companies have attended UW–Madison, the most of any university in the United States.

Home to 44,413 students (30,361 undergraduate / 14,052 graduate), Wisconsin is home to one of the leading programs in the field of science as the school has been the site of multiple advances including the single-grain experiment (which marked the birth of modern nutrition science), the discovery of vitamins A and B, the development of the anticoagulant medication warfarin and the first synthesis of human embryonic stem cells.

Student life is vibrant at Wisconsin as over 750 student organizations or clubs register with the Center for Leadership and Involvement each year.

For more information on the Wisconsin women’s collegiate club team, contact either Sam Zaug (szaug@wisc.edu) or Maria Rantis (mrantis@wisc.edu).

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