CMS Women's Water Polo Picked Third in SCIAC Preseason Poll

Aracelia Aldrete is a returning All-SCIAC selection for the Athenas
Aracelia Aldrete is a returning All-SCIAC selection for the Athenas

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team was picked to finish third in the SCIAC in the 2019 season in a preseason poll of the conference's coaches, the league office announced today.

CMS ended last year as the No. 3 seed in the SCIAC tournament, where it fell by a single goal to No. 2 Cal Lutheran in the semifinals (6-5). Cal Lutheran held the No. 2 spot in this year's poll with 72 points, behind only defending champion Pomona-Pitzer (80). CMS had 60 points in the poll with Whittier close behind with 56 points in the fourth spot. Redlands (42), Chapman (41), La Verne (27), Occidental (17) and Caltech (10) rounded out the preseason poll in the 4-9 positions. 

Heading into the new season, the Athenas will need to replace a pair of senior standouts from last year's team, who both earned first-team All-SCIAC honors. Jessica Gaffney was also a first-team Division III All-America selection after tallying 53 goals and 18 assists last spring, while Roxy Kiessling was an honorable mention All-American after recording 35 goals and 16 assists. 

Leading the way for the Athenas in 2019 will be junior Aracelia Aldrete, who was a second-team All-SCIAC and honorable mention All-America selection last year. Aldrete finished second on the team in goals (40) and points (54) a year ago, while also tallying 34 steals on the defensive end. 

This year's version of the Athenas has four seniors who will be called on to provide leadership to a young squad featuring nine freshmen among its 18 players. Krystal Sung, Emma Choy, Haley Gibbs and Kaitlyn Eng are all in their fourth seasons at CMS and will be called on to establish the team culture that has kept CMS near the top of the SCIAC standings. 

Aldrete and junior attack Celeste Cerna represent the CMS Class of 2020, while three players make up the team's sophomore class - center Chandlyr Denaro, and defenders Amelia Ayala and Anna Fry, who will be asked to fill some of the scoring void left by the graduation of last year's seniors. Denaro played goalie last year for the Athenas, but with three first-year goalies in this year's incoming class, Denaro will be able to move out into the field as a sophomore. Ayala had a big freshman campaign with 30 goals and nine assists and figures to be a strong candidate for postseason honors in 2019, while Fry had 23 goals and six assists in her first season and could be in the All-SCIAC mix as well. 

The optimism around the program that the Athenas can challenge for a league title centers around a deep incoming freshman class, which will be expected to infuse the squad with talent and depth this spring. Three incoming goalies, Ruth Efe of Boulder, Colorado, Jessica Salaz of nearby Rancho Cucamonga, and Veronica Show of Fremont, California will help solidify the team's defense. 

At attack, newcomers Alex Szymczak (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Jenna Polidoro (Tolland, Conn.), Ayla Huhn (Menlo Park, Calif.) and Maddy Menard (Los Altos, Calif.) will add more offensive weapons to the CMS arsenal, while utility players Addi Duvall (Menlo Park, Calif.) and Emily McElroy (Pleasanton, Calif.) will also look to contribute with their two-way skills. 

CMS gets its 2019 campaign started this weekend with a trip to the Cal Baptist Mini-Tournament on Saturday, facing No. 1 USC at 2 p.m., which is coming off its fifth national title last spring, and host Cal Baptist at 7 p.m.