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Three Pioneer water polo players earn all-conference recognition


Junior goalie Jayme Pekarske earned All-WWPA Honorable Mention honors in her first season with the Pioneers. (Photo: Kevin Hill)

  • April 27, 2011

Three Cal State East Bay water polo players were named to the All-Western Water Polo Association teams.

Sophomore Claire Pierce led the Pioneers' three honorees, earning a first-team All-WWPA selection, while junior goalie Jayme Pekarske was named to the Honorable Mention Team and freshman utility Sarah Grunberger earned a spot on the all-freshman team.

Pierce earned her second straight All-WWPA nod after leading the Pioneers with 80 goals and 65 steals during the 2011 regular season. The Perth, Australia, native ranked led the conference in steals and ranked third in goals while drawing over 80 ejections to lead the team. Last year's Newcomer of the Year winner, suffered no sophomore slump as she was fifth in the nation in goals and ninth in steals after helping Cal State East Bay post the second-best overall record in the conference with six wins over Division I foes in 2011. Pierce has now scored 170 goals in just two seasons as a Pioneer, moving her into second on the all-time career goals list behind teammate Liz Warren.

Pekarske, a junior transfer, had an outstanding season in the cage for East Bay, posting 324 saves to rank third in the WWPA. During the 2011 campaign, Pekarske held opponents to seven or fewer goals in 14 games, including six of the last eight contests to finish the regular season. The Riverside native ranked third in the conference with a 7.59 goals against average and gave up a season-low of three goals in a 20-3 victory over Vanguard on April 9. Pekarske was also fourth on the team with 44 steals.

A native of Sydney, Australia, Grunberger had a breakout season for the Pioneers, leading the team, conference and nation in assists with 68, which currently ranks third in the single-season record book for East Bay. Grunberger also added 46 goals and 40 steals to rank second and fifth on the team, respectively. Grunberger single-handedly posted nearly a quarter of the team's total assists and paired with fellow Aussie Pierce to score 126 of the Pioneers' 334 goals.

Loyola Marymount junior Kimberly Benedetti earned Player of the Year honors while Santa Clara freshman Claire Eadington was named Newcomer of the Year. LMU's Kyle Witt collected Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Lions to an undefeated conference record and the No. 1 seed in the WWPA Tournament.

Benedetti, teammate Casey Flacks, UC San Diego senior Hanalei Crowell, Santa Clara senior Taylor Harkins, Colorado State senior Ali Pavlik and Cal State Bakersfield sophomore goalie Megan Pezzolla all joined Pierce on the All-WWPA First Team. Each of the 2011 honorees earned first team recognition for the first time. 

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