By Ryan Vermont:
The 2015-16 season for the San Jose State women’s water polo program was one for the record books … literally.
The Spartans’ four-year-scoring-dynamo Rae Lekness surpassed the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) career goal-scoring mark of 291 to become the conference’s all-time leader with 294. She set SJSU’s single-season record for goals in the process scoring 98 her senior year and earned Second Team All-American honors.
The team finished 18-15, ranked 11th nationally in the final 2016 coaches’ poll, while placing sixth out of 39 schools in the MPSF.
When the season came to an end in June 2016, SJSU let go former head coach Johnny Bega, who led the team for three seasons. A month later, the job was given to someone in-house.
Gabor Sarusi was handed the reigns of the Spartans’ women’s water polo team after serving as an assistant on the men’s side in 2016. He became the third head coach in the program’s history.
Returning to this year’s team is the 5’8 sophomore driver from Spain Carla Toha Vilanova, who scored 53 goals last year. She will be expected to carry an even bigger load this season and proved she could do so during the Collegiate Cup II in November, where she had 8 goals in four games.
The Spartans went 2-2 and finished 7th in the 10 team exhibition tournament.
Sarusi will also rely heavily on senior driver Cara Robinson, a captain on this year’s team as well as upperclassmen senior driver Donia Momen and junior driver McKenna Yates to lead both vocally and by example.
Between the pipes are two seasoned goalkeepers.
Junior Katelynn Thompson didn’t see action in any contests last season, but appeared in 46 games (41 starts) over her first two seasons for San Jose State. Junior Tayler Peters started 20 games last season for the Spartans will surely see time as well.
With the loss of Lekness among others and under the direction of a new head coach, the San Jose State women’s water polo team will undoubtedly have a new look as the season gets going this weekend.
Over the course of Friday and Saturday, the Spartans “host” a powerhouse lineup of nationally ranked teams in the third annual LouStrong Invitational on the campus of West Valley College in Saratoga.
The teams involved are #1-ranked Stanford, #3-ranked UCLA, #4-Cal, #12-Pacific, #17- UC Davis, a Canadian National team as well as #14-ranked San Jose State.
The Spartans’ first match is the invitational opener Saturday morning against top-ranked Stanford. The game is set to start at 8:30 a.m.