For the first time in more than a decade, the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship is returning to national television. USA Water Polo, in collaboration with the NCAA and ESPN, is presenting live coverage of the 2022 NCAA Championship final from Canham Natatorium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on ESPNU and streaming on the ESPN app on Sunday, May 8 at 4 p.m. ET.
The field for the 2022 NCAA Tournament will be determined April 25 and will feature nine teams from around the country. Three at-large bids will be awarded in addition to the automatic qualifiers from six conferences: Big West, CWPA, GCC, MAAC, MPSF, and WWPA. USC claimed the 2021 Championship, defeating rival UCLA last spring in Los Angeles.
"America deserves to see the best NCAA women's teams play for the championship, and USA Water Polo is delighted to televise this game with ESPN," said Christopher Ramsey, USA Water Polo CEO. "As one of America's fastest growing sports, we think it is vitally important for this game to be seen by USA Water Polo members -- the next generation of scholar athletes who dream of someday winning their own NCAA championship."
"For the last 10 years coaches have been asking themselves, 'How can we grow our audience?' The answer to that question is nuanced, and one that is answered by working together. Showcasing the NCAA championship on television is a strategic collaboration between USAWP, the NCAA, the ACWPC, ESPN, and the water polo community at large to support the sustainability of water polo on television. We hope that everyone who cannot attend in person, tunes in and supports our sport," said John Abdou, executive director of the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches and USA Water Polo chief sport performance officer.
Added Chris Vidale, Marist College head coach and Chair of the Women's Water Polo Committee: "Not having to wait four years at a time to be able to see the best sport in the world on primetime television is some of the best news I've heard this year! I'm so excited for this partnership with ESPN, the NCAA and USA Water Polo. An opportunity for water polo to be viewed in every living room across the country is so exciting for the sport but also our athletes."
Four-time Olympic medalist and USA Water Polo Hall of Famer Brenda Villa (analyst) joins Greg Mescall (play-by-play) on the call from the University of Michigan.
The NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship is one of 30 NCAA Championship events – including 16 women's sports championships – airing across ESPN networks in 2021-22. Through this collaboration with USA Water Polo and the NCAA, ESPN will carry the men's and women's national collegiate championship events through 2023-24.
"We look forward to showcasing the Women's Water Polo Championship to an even broader audience across ESPN platforms as we continue to expand our portfolio of NCAA Championship events," said Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions. "This is a thrilling event and the student-athletes who compete at this level are truly world-class."
Added Andy Fee, Executive Director of Athletics, Long Beach State University: "As Chair of the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship Committee, it gives me great pleasure to share our excitement partnering with ESPN to broadcast the Men's Championship beginning December 2022. As collegiate men's water polo continues to grow, this exposure is critical to shining a light on the amazing student-athletes and coaches who compete for the national championship each year. We look forward to this partnership with ESPN growing in the future."
For more information on the upcoming NCAA Championship, visit ncaa.com/sports/waterpolo-women and be sure to follow USA Water Polo on social media (@USAWP) for updates on the matchup and broadcast coverage closer to the event.
About USA Water Polo
USA Water Polo, Inc., is the national governing body for water polo in America, overseeing our United States Olympic program as well as 20 championship events annually, such as Junior Olympics and Masters National Championships. With more than 50,000 members, USAWP also is the sanctioning authority for more than 500 member clubs and more than 400 tournaments nationwide. USAWP is committed to the development of the sport throughout the U.S., fostering grass-roots expansion while providing a national system of affiliated clubs, certified coaches, and officials. For more information, visit www.usawaterpolo.org.