CHICAGO, Ill. -- For 16 teams, the path to the National Championship will come to an end this weekend in the shadow of the Golden Dome and "Touchdown Jesus" as the Collegiate Water Polo Association hosts the 2011 Women's National Collegiate Club Championship at the University of Notre Dame's Rolfs Aquatic Center.
Comprised of 14 division champions and the runner-up finishers in the Pacific Coast and Midwest Divisions, the teams will converge on the home of the Fighting Irish for 30 games to decide which program claims the title of "2011 Women's National Collegiate Club Champion".
Leading the charge is three-time defending national champion California Polytechnic State University which returns to defend its title on the heels of capturing the Pacific Coast Division crown.
Overall, there is only one first-time participant in the championship as the Big Ten (University of Michigan -- 2010), Sierra Pacific Division (University of California-Davis -- 2008, 2009), Northwest (University of Oregon -- 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010), Midwest (Notre Dame -- 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010), Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania State University -- 2001, 2005), Southeast (University of Florida -- 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), Rocky Mountain (University of Utah -- 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010), North Atlantic (Middlebury College -- 2008, 2010), Texas (University of Texas -- 2002, 2007, 2009), Heartland (Lindenwood University -- 2007, 2008), New England (Dartmouth College -- 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009) and New York (Cornell University -- 2005, 2006) Division champions join Cal Poly (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) with past experience.
For Utah, it marks the program's second consecutive appearance at Nationals, but for different divisions. Prior to the 2011 season, defending division champion Utah, Southern Utah University, University of Utah "B" and Westminster College broke off from the Southwest Division to form the Rocky Mountain to ease travel concerns.
Pacific Coast Division runner-up the University of California-Los Angeles, which qualifies for the field based on division rival Cal Poly capturing the 2010 National Championship to make the Pacific Coast the highest finishing division during the past year, made the field in 2001 as a division champion.
Miami University, which takes Notre Dame's automatic berth to the field as the host institution as the Fighting Irish captured the Midwest Division's champion berth, previously made the field in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 as the Midwest champion.
The lone newcomer is Arizona State University, which claimed the program's first Southwest Division title in the program's inaugural berth in the division title game.
Six-time titleist (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010) and eight-time title game participant (2002, 2007) Cal Poly is among six teams in the field to make the National Championship game as Florida (2001, 2006), Dartmouth (2004, 2005), Oregon (2008), Notre Dame (2009) and Michigan (2010) will all strive for their first rings this year.
Ticket prices for all spectators are $15 per day or $25 for the tournament (kids under 12 are free), while Notre Dame faculty, staff and students are $5 per day and $12 for the tournament.
If you can not make it to South Bend, do not worry. The CWPA, in partnership with Stretch Internet, will be live streaming the entire tournament live on Friday-Sunday for the league's fans at a cost of $10 per game or $25 for a weekend pass that allows viewers to watch every game from the comfort of their home or office. In addition, each game will be archived so that fans can catch up on the action if they miss a game.
To access the stream click on the Game Central link below or go to http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/cwpa.portal?mode=link#