Returning student-athletes, new recruits lead Pacific spring sports
Veteran student-athletes, including an Olympian (women’s water polo), preseason All-WCC selections (softball) and a nationally ranked player (men’s tennis) will lead University of the Pacific’s spring sports teams. They are joined by a standout group of recruits rounding out the teams in key positions.
Women’s Water Polo
Pacific hosts the 2023 NCAA Women’s Water Polo National Championship May 12-14 with designs on earning the Golden Coast Conference’s championship and automatic berth into the field.
The Tigers are led by veterans, including graduate student Lucy Davis and senior goalkeeper Clara Vulpisi, who missed two seasons to participate in the Olympics. Newcomers Dora Alaksza, Noemi Alaksza and Alicia Petkov immediately jumped into the lineup and are impact players. A strong sophomore class also will play a major role in the team’s success.
“We have an excellent mix of new talent and veteran leadership,” said Head Coach James Graham. “We are ready for the challenges every season presents because of our ability to be adaptable and our strong team cohesion.”
The team opened Jan. 27 on the road. They will play at the Douglass M. Eberhardt Aquatics Center when they host Michigan on March 19. Ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll, the team has surged to No. 11 after a 7-2 start, with the setbacks coming to the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Defending Golden Coast Conference champion Fresno State (March 25) and 2022 national semifinalist California (April 2) highlight the home schedule.
Third-year head coach Chris Rodriguez has 16 freshmen and plans to have several in the starting lineup. Outfielder Ben Nemivant and catcher Jeremy Lea are among the returning position play starters. The pitching staff will have several newcomers as the top two pitchers from the 2022 team, Hunter Hayes and Elijah Birdsong, were selected in the Major League Baseball draft.
“We are excited to see what this team can do,” Rodriguez said. “The team has worked extremely hard this fall in the small details of the game and has shown great promise.”
The Tigers open the season Feb. 24 against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The team will host four of the nine three-game West Coast Conference weekends with Portland (March 24-26), San Francisco (March 31-April 2), Pepperdine (April 21-23) and BYU (May 11-13) visiting Klein Family Field.
Five freshmen and two Division I transfer pitchers are among the new faces on the team. Graduate student Carly Lucchetti and junior Rian Dirmeyer were both selected for the preseason All-WCC team. Other seniors include outfielder Marissa Fabian, utility player Elle Peterson and pitcher Vanessa Strong.
“As a team, we are better in all phases of the game,” said Head Coach Brian Kolze, who is in his 31st season at Pacific. “We have more depth than last season, which gives us options.”
The home schedule includes games with Fresno State (March 8), California (March 29) and Oregon (April 27) and three-game West Coast Conference series with Loyola Marymount (April 7-8) and Saint Mary’s (April 29-30). The Tigers open the home series with a three-game series with Nevada Feb. 25-26.
After an exciting fall that included strong play in Intercollegiate Tennis Association events, the men’s tennis team is looking forward to the spring season. Returning to the courts last year after a year away, the squad under first-year head coach Robin Goodman exceeded preseason projections by finishing eighth in the West Coast Conference. Picked sixth this season, Goodman has set up a challenging schedule for the Tigers.
“We have great players back from last year, but we also have several new faces that will elevate our program,” Goodman said. “My expectations are high for this year.”
Junior Ran Amar, who was ranked No. 120 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after his fall season, senior Manroop Saini and junior Peter Alam are among the top returnees. Junior transfer Andre Rodeia, freshman Tiaga Silva and redshirt freshman Terence Das are among the newcomers expected to contribute.
Playing a tough early schedule, the Tigers have key West Coast Conference home matches with San Francisco and Santa Clara (March 24-25) at the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center.
Three seniors and seven sophomores make up the 2023 Tiger women’s tennis squad. Senior Klara Kosan continues to hold down the No. 1 singles spot for Pacific. Newcomer Tomi Main, a highly touted transfer from Texas Tech, has moved into the No. 2 singles spot, while Karina Chao, an Air Force transfer, is playing at No. 4 singles. Sophomore MiaAngelina Ruja is playing at No. 3 singles with seniors Zoe Clydesdale-Eberle and Danielle Zamora completing the lineup.
“With our veteran leadership and outstanding recruiting class, we are anticipating the program taking another step this season,” said Head Coach Mike Erwin.
The Tigers have four home West Coast Conference matches, including the March 31-April 1 weekend when Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount visit.
Head Coach John Cook will have four events to prepare his team for the 2023 West Coast Conference Championships as the opening tournament was cancelled due to the weather. His veteran team will travel to Arizona twice and to Eugene, Oregon and the UC Davis Invitational for preparation.
Seniors Leonardo Rigamonti, Maverick Pavletich and Petr Janik bring the most experience on a squad that includes seven seniors, a junior and two freshmen.
The beach season will start Feb. 25 at San Jose State. Pacific will host a tournament April 15 when the Tigers face UC Davis and Santa Clara in the final tune-up for the West Coast Conference Championships. Veterans Jenny Todd and Hania Taduran will lead the Tiger team.
Head Coach Josh Jones has added throwers and sprinters to his distance corps for the 2023 track season. He has four freshmen and will count on leadership from graduate student Kailey Espinoza and senior Alyssa Hershey.
Fans can see several Pacific teams in action Feb. 25 as part of a special promotion. Anyone with tickets to the 4 p.m. men’s basketball game that day will be admitted free to the softball doubleheader against Nevada (noon start time) or the baseball doubleheader against Milwaukee (1 p.m. start time).