LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Loyola Marymount junior Kimberly Benedetti has been named the Western Water Polo Association Women's Player of the Year while Santa Clara freshman Claire Eadington has been named Newcomer of the Year in the WWPA's annual end of the season awards. It marks the first time in school history that an SCU player has earned the honor.
Santa Clara - seeded third in the upcoming WWPA Championships - also saw seniors Taylor Harkins (First Team) and Caitlin Espe (Second Team), along with junior Laura Espinosa (Honorable Mention), named among the league's best.
All told 27 student-athletes were honored for their performance in the pool this 2011 season.
Thanks to the Lions third straight No. 1 seed in the tournament and a perfect 11-0 record against WWPA foes, second-year Head Coach Kyle Witt has been named WWPA Coach of the Year. The Lions are 22-0 under Witt against the WWPA heading into the first round of the championships, which starts Friday at Cal State East Bay.
Benedetti led a balanced Lions' attack that has the Lions on a 35-game winning streak in the WWPA. She was tied for the team lead with 54 goals and ranks second all-time in LMU history with 83 kickouts drawn this season. In three seasons, she is ranked sixth all-time with 149 career goals. As for Eadington, it was a banner season for the true freshman, as she is second on the team in goals with 42, led the team in assists with 38 and second in steals with 36.
In addition to the Player of the Year honor for Benedetti, she earned first-team All-WWPA for the first time in her career. She wasn't the only one, as the entire first-team is new to the list. Making the move from second-team a year ago is junior Casey Flacks from LMU and Cal State East Bay sophomore Claire Pierce. Joining them is senior Hanalei Crowell of UC San Diego, senior Taylor Harkins of Santa Clara, senior Ali Pavlik of Colorado State and Cal State Bakersfield sophomore goalie Megan Pezzolla, who was an honorable mention a year ago.
Second-team All-WWPA went to junior Kirsten Bates of UC San Diego, sophomore Jessica Browning of Cal State Bakersfield, senior goalie Bryanna Burns of Cal State San Bernardino, senior Caitlin Espe of Santa Clara, sophomore Erin Manke of LMU, senior Orsi Nadasdy of Colorado State and junior Nikki Smart of Cal State Monterey Bay. Bates was the only player to earn honors last year, claiming second-team in 2010.
Rounding out the 2011 All-Conference team with honorable mention honors were LMU senior Mary Ann Campos, Santa Clara junior Laura Espinosa, Cal State Bakersfield freshman Taylor Hanson, Sonoma State senior Kelsey Lowy, UC San Diego senior Felicia Orozco, Cal State East Bay junior goalie Jayme Pekarske and Cal State San Bernardino sophomore Misty Vu.
Honoring the youth and future of the WWPA is the six-member WWPA All-Freshman team, which was awarded to Melissa Bartow of UC San Diego, Sarah Grunberger of Cal State East Bay, Taylor Hanson of Cal State Bakersfield, Alexandra Honny of LMU, Lauren Porteus of Colorado State and Santa Clara's Eadington.
2011 Western Water Polo Association Women's Water Polo Honors
Player of the Year: Kimberly Benedetti (Jr., 2M) – LMU
Newcomer of the Year: Claire Eadington (Fr., UTL) – Santa Clara
Coach of the Year: Kyle Witt - LMU
First-Team WWPA All-Conference
Kimberly Benedetti (Jr., 2M) - LMU
Hanalei Crowell (Sr., UTL) - UC San Diego
Casey Flacks (Jr., DR) - LMU
Taylor Harkins (Sr., DR) - Santa Clara
Ali Pavlik (Sr., ATT) - Colorado State
Megan Pezzolla (So., GK) – Cal State Bakersfield
Claire Pierce (So., UTL) - Cal State East Bay
Second-Team WWPA All-Conference
Kirsten Bates (Jr., 2MD) - UC San Diego
Jessica Browning (So., 2M) - Cal State Bakersfield
Bryanna Burns (Sr., GK) – Cal State San Bernardino
Caitlin Espe (Sr., 2MD) - Santa Clara
Erin Manke (So., DR) - LMU
Orsi Nadasdy (Sr., CTR) - Colorado State
Nikki Smart (Jr., ATT) - Cal State Monterey Bay
Honorable Mention WWPA All-Conference
Mary Ann Campos (Sr., DR) - LMU
Laura Espinosa (Jr., 2M) - Santa Clara
Taylor Hanson (Fr., DR) - Cal State Bakersfield
Kelsey Lowy (Sr., ATT) - Sonoma State
Felicia Orozco (Sr., UTL) - UC San Diego
Jayme Pekarske (Jr., GK) – Cal State East Bay
Misty Vu (So., UTL) - Cal State San Bernardino
WWPA All-Freshman Team
Melissa Bartow (2MD) – UC San Diego
Claire Eadington (UTL) – Santa Clara
Sarah Grunberger (UTL) – Cal State East Bay
Taylor Hanson (DR) – Cal State Bakersfield
Alexandra Honny (DR) – LMU
Lauren Porteus (CTR) – Colorado State
Follow the championships online at: www.TheWWPA.com and on WWPA tournament central.