All sweetness and fight

Women's Water Polo

UC Irvine's Collyer is angelic out of the pool, but is a demonic defender for Anteaters' first NCAA Tournament team.

May 11, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,
(Courtesy of UC Irvine )

The double life of Cortney Collyer is in its final days.

Monday's sunrise will, in fact, bring an end to the ambiguity that now resonates between her girl-next-door appearance and the single-minded ruthlessness of her championship soul.

When the last droplet of chlorine-saturated pool water is toweled off following a historic weekend she and her UC Irvine women's water polo teammates will experience in Ann Arbor, Mich. Collyer will return to school, finish work toward her business economics degree and look for real-world venues in which to make a splash.

"Yeah, it scares me," Collyer, UCI's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, said of the oncoming closure of an athletic existence that has both inspired and confounded those who have encountered the polite, demure, quintessentially Californian student-athlete away from the pool.

But just add water and Collyer becomes a swirling, surging liquid force that is usually lethal to the hopes of Anteaters' opponents.


Designated by Coach Dan Klatt as the team's lockdown defender, Collyer led the team with 49 steals in the regular season. But she also is tops on the Big West Conference regular-season and tournament champions in assists (30 in the regular season). Her 41 goals rank third on the squad.

Collyer's well-rounded prowess, which includes strong leadership on a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores, has helped No. 7-ranked UCI (21-8) earn the program's first NCAA Tournament berth.

The Anteaters, who have won seven straight and 11 of their last 12, are the No. 5 seed in the eight-team tournament that runs Friday through Sunday. UCI will face No. 4-seeded and No. 4-ranked USC (18-6) in the quarterfinals, Friday at the University of Michigan at 4:30 p.m. PST.

UCI, which competed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation during Collyer's freshman campaign, has won the Big West Tournament the last three seasons.

This season is the first in which the Big West Tournament champion received an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

USC, the two-time defending NCAA champion, trounced UCI, 14-4, on March 12 in their only meeting this season.

But Collyer, the Big West Tournament MVP and a two-time first-team all-conference honoree, said the Anteaters, though admittedly anxious about the novelty of the national stage, have nothing less than a national championship on their mind as they approach the final weekend, at which each team is assured three games.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles