Questions? Call 866-495-5172
Already a member? 877-845-6272

Water Polo Colleges: What Colleges Have Women's Water Polo Teams?

What has long been considered a California sport, water polo is rising in popularity across the country in states, such as Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, Utah, Illinois, Texas, Michigan and Oregon. In 2017, USA Water Polo reported non-California membership has by more than 4,000 members over a decade. The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) also reported nationwide growth in women’s high school water polo, with a 7.9 percent increase in women’s water polo participation between 2011 and 2016. This was during a time when historically popular sports, such as football, volleyball and basketball, saw a decrease in varsity participation.

Despite positive growth, water polo is still fighting for sponsorship and funding at the collegiate level at NCAA and NAIA institutions. Women’s water polo has a scholarship limit per team of 8 for both NCAA Division 1 and 2. Water polo is an equivalency sport, which means college coaches have the freedom to award their scholarship budget however they see fit. This means student-athletes are far more likely to receive partial funding, as opposed to full-ride scholarships.

How many colleges have women’s water polo?

  • Division 1: 34
  • Division 2: 12
  • Division 3: 19
  • NAIA: 1
  • CCCAA: 41

There are 107 women’s water polo colleges. California is home to nearly 76 percent of high school water polo players. While these athletes have the option of 29 collegiate women’s water polo programs outside of California, it’s likely that many of the 1,900 women who play college water polo after high school will be recruited by a local institution. While there are more women’s college water polo programs than men’s, women’s water polo remains one of the smallest women’s NCAA sports with a highly competitive recruiting process. Student-athletes will have to measure up to both local and international athletes, as college coaches spend just as much time recruiting talent from overseas as they do in the United States.

Back to Top ^

Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA)

As a member conference of the NCAA, the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) sponsors 17 women’s water polo programs that compete within the NCAA and against CWPA member teams. These programs are situated in the Eastern region of the United States and divided into two divisions; Division 1 and Division 3. These programs benefit from the same perks of active NCAA members, including the opportunity to compete at the NCAA men’s water polo championship for the title of national champion.

Back to Top ^

Western Water Polo Association (WWPA)

Another member conference of the NCAA, the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) oversees 9 women’s water polo programs. These women’s programs include California State East Bay, California State Monterey Bay, Fresno Pacific, Mercyhurst and UC San Diego in the Western region and Gannon, McKendree and Salem in the Eastern region. All nine WWPA women’s water polo teams compete in matches against other WWPA teams and within the NCAA. At the end of the season, each team competes for the WWPA’s automatic bid to the NCAA men’s water polo championship at a WWPA-sponsored postseason championship tournament.

Back to Top ^

Division 1 water polo colleges

Division 1 water polo offers 34 women’s water polo colleges across both the East and West Coast, as well as Michigan, Indiana, Arizona and Hawaii. On the East Coast, student-athletes have the option of 14 programs located in Virginia, DC, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. On the West Coast, all 15 women’s water polo programs are in the state of California.

While all Division 1 women’s water polo colleges compete at the same level, what differentiates the campuses where these teams are situated is the size of the student body. The colleges and universities located on the East Coast offer a smaller student body ranging from 2,000 and 8,000 students. On the West Coast, student-athletes will find much larger student bodies between 18,000 to over 30,000 students.

The NCAA has sponsored a women’s water polo championship to cap off the season since 2001. With so few women’s water polo teams, teams from all seven women’s water polo conferences, regardless of division, are eligible to qualify for and compete in the postseason champions. Starting with the 2019-20 season, Division 3 institutions no longer participate in the NCAA women’s water polo championship. Instead, Division 3 institutions now compete in the USA Water Polo Division 3 National Championship.

Back to Top ^

Division 2 water polo colleges

Women’s water polo is offered at 12 Division 2 colleges and universities. While many of these programs are in California, student-athletes also have a few East Coast options in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Ranging in size from 650 students at Salem International University to over 27,000 students at The University of California – San Diego, student-athletes looking for a small, medium or large campus have all three options at the Division 2 level.

All three NCAA divisions are eligible to compete in the NCAA women’s water polo championship at the end of each season. Division 3 water polo programs competed in their last NCAA postseason tournament in 2019. Moving forward, Division 1 and 2 women’s water polo teams will continue to go head-to-head at the NCAA championship tournament, while Division 3 programs will end their season with the USA Water Polo Division 3 National Championship.

Back to Top ^

Division 3 water polo colleges

There are 19 Division 3 women’s water polo programs spread across California, and in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York. Known for their small student bodies and core focus on academic over athletics, Division 3 water polo is demanding attention with the help of USA Water Polo.

Division 3 men’s volleyball earned an official NCAA sponsored Division 3 men’s volleyball championship in 2012, after hosting its own Molten Championship for 15 years. Following their lead, USA Water Polo teamed up with Division 3 water polo institutions to establish a Division 3 national water polo championship tournament May 2020. Developing this tournament not only allows USA Water Polo to recognize growth and encourage the future growth of varsity women’s water polo at other Division institutions, but the organization hopes to reach the same level of success as Division 3 men’s volleyball with their own NCAA sponsored championship.

Back to Top ^

NAIA water polo programs

In recent years, institutions like Azusa Pacific, Concordia University and Fresno Pacific have transitioned from NAIA to NCAA programs. As a result, the NAIA sponsors just 1 women’s water polo program at California State University Maritime Academy. A benefit of being the only NAIA program with no conference is that there are no limits on the number of games the team can compete in. Unfortunately, this also means that the NAIA does not sponsor a postseason championship. While Cal Maritime cannot compete for the NCAA women’s water polo champion title, the program can schedule games against NCAA programs. 

Back to Top ^

Junior colleges with water polo

The California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) governs 41 junior college water polo programs. Each CCCAA women’s water polo teams belongs to one of seven conferences across California. At the end of each season, the CCCAA hosts a women’s water polo state championship. CCCAA institutions range in student-body size from as small as 1,500 students to as large as 86,000, with an average of 12,300 students.

Student-athletes typically transfer out of CCCAA institutions to attend a four-year NCAA or NAIA institution where they can continue to compete in water polo and focus on academics.  

Back to Top ^

Women’s College Water Polo Rankings – Best water polo colleges

Student-athletes prioritize several factors when looking for the right college fit. Is the school in their desired location? Does the institution offer a major in their area of academic interest? How large or small is the student body? Taking into consideration these factors, NCSA created a Power Rankings report that analyzes data from IPEDS graduation rates and average cost after aid, and the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges. The report also included data collected from student-athletes in the NCSA network. Using this data, we’ve ranked the best women’s water polo programs.

  1. University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California
  4. Princeton University
  5. Harvard University
  6. Brown University
  7. University of California – San Diego
  8. University of Southern California
  9. University of Michigan
  10. University of California – Irvine

The NCAA releases its own women’s water polo ranks that can be found on the NCAA website.

Back to Top ^

 

Full List of Colleges with Women's Water Polo

School
City and State
Region
Conference
Division
Sacramento, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Tempe, ARIZONA
South West
Pacific-12 Conference  
NCAA I  
Sherman, TEXAS
Mid South
Southern Athletic Association  
NCAA III  
Azusa, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Great Northeast Athletic Conference  
NCAA II  
Providence, RHODE ISLAND
New England
Ivy League  
NCAA I  
Lewisburg, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Patriot League  
NCAA I  
Riverside, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific West Conference  
NCAA I  
Pasadena, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Thousand Oaks, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Bakersfield, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Western Athletic Conference  
NCAA I  
Hayward, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Collegiate Athletic Association  
NCAA II  
Fresno, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Mountain West Conference  
NCAA I  
Long Beach, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Big West Conference  
NCAA I  
Seaside, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Collegiate Athletic Association  
NCAA II  
Northridge, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Big West Conference  
NCAA I  
Vallejo, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Pacific Conference  
NAIA  
Kenosha, WISCONSIN
Great Lakes
College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin  
NCAA III  
Norwalk, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Rancho Cucamonga, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Collegiate Athletic Association  
JC  
Orange, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Glendora, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Western States Conference  
JC  
Claremont, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
San Mateo, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Irvine, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific West Conference  
NCAA II  
New London, CONNECTICUT
New England
New England Small College Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
San Luis Obispo, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Cypress, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Cupertino, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Pleasant Hill, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Monterey Park, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
SCAA  
JC  
Torrance, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Franklin Springs, GEORGIA
South East
Conference Carolinas  
NCAA II  
Los Altos Hills, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Fresno, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Central Valley Conference  
JC  
Fresno, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific West Conference  
NCAA II  
Fullerton, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Erie, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference  
NCAA II  
Washington, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
North East
Atlantic 10 Conference  
NCAA I  
Huntington Beach, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
El Cajon, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Grove City, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Presidents' Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Oneonta, NEW YORK
North East
Empire 8 Athletic Conference  
NCAA I  
Cambridge, MASSACHUSETTS
New England
Ivy League  
NCAA I  
Bloomington, INDIANA
Great Lakes
Big Ten Conference  
NCAA I  
New Rochelle, NEW YORK
North East
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference  
NCAA I  
Philadelphia, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Atlantic 10 Conference  
NCAA I  
Oakland, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Saint Charles, MISSOURI
Mid West
Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association  
NCAA II  
Long Beach, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Brooklyn, NEW YORK
North East
Northeast Conference  
NCAA I  
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
South Coast  
JC  
Valley Glen, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
West Coast Conference  
NCAA I  
Saint Paul, MINNESOTA
Mid West
Midwest Conference  
NCAA III  
Poughkeepsie, NEW YORK
North East
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference  
NCAA I  
Lebanon, ILLINOIS
Great Lakes
Great Lakes Valley Conference  
NCAA II  
Merced, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Erie, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference  
NCAA II  
Modesto, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Central Valley Conference  
JC  
Monmouth, ILLINOIS
Great Lakes
Midwest Conference  
NCAA III  
Walnut, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Fremont, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Costa Mesa, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Orange Empire Conference, Mission Conference for football  
JC  
Phoenix, ARIZONA
South West
(NAIA) (NCWA - Wrestling)  
NAIA  
San Marcos, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Pasadena, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Mission Football Conference, South Coast Conference  
JC  
Erie, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference  
NCAA III  
Claremont, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Princeton, NEW JERSEY
North East
Ivy League  
NCAA I  
Whittier, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Riverside, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Sacramento, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Bay Valley Conference  
JC  
Mission Viejo, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Commission on Athletics  
JC  
Loretto, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Northeast Conference  
NCAA I  
Salem, WEST VIRGINIA
Mid East
Great Midwest Athletic Conference (NCAA II)  
NCAA II  
San Diego, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
San Diego, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (CCCAA)  
JC  
San Diego, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Mountain West Conference  
NCAA I  
Stockton, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
San Jose, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Mountain West Conference  
NCAA I  
Santa Ana, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Santa Clara, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
West Coast Conference  
NCAA I  
Santa Monica, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Santa Rosa, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Bay Valley 19, NORCAL Football Alliance, West Coast Conference  
JC  
Loudonville, NEW YORK
North East
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference  
NCAA I  
Rocklin, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Rohnert Park, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Collegiate Athletic Association  
NCAA II  
Chula Vista, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Other  
JC  
Brooklyn Heights, NEW YORK
North East
Northeast Conference  
NCAA I  
Stanford, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific-12 Conference  
NCAA I  
Berkeley, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific-12 Conference  
NCAA I  
Davis, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Big Sky Conference  
NCAA I  
Irvine, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Big West Conference  
NCAA I  
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific-12 Conference  
NCAA I  
La Jolla, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Division II Independents  
NCAA II  
Santa Barbara, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Big West Conference  
NCAA I  
Honolulu, HAWAII
West Coast
Mountain West Conference  
NCAA I  
La Verne, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Ann Arbor, MICHIGAN
Great Lakes
Big Ten Conference  
NCAA I  
Redlands, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Pacific-12 Conference  
NCAA I  
Stockton, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
West Coast Conference  
NCAA I  
Utica, NEW YORK
North East
Empire 8 Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Ventura, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
 
JC  
Villanova, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Colonial Athletic Association  
NCAA I  
Lexington, VIRGINIA
Mid East
Big South Conference  
NCAA I  
Staten Island, NEW YORK
North East
Northeast Conference  
NCAA I  
Washington, PENNSYLVANIA
North East
Presidents' Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Saratoga, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
California Collegiate Athletic Association  
JC  
Whittier, CALIFORNIA
West Coast
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
Springfield, OHIO
Great Lakes
North Coast Athletic Conference  
NCAA III  
App Buttons - IOS/Android

Recruiting in your hands.

Tools and advice to find the right fit.

Questions? Call 866-495-5172, 8am-6pm CST Every Day Questions?
Call 855-410-6272, 8am-6pm CST Every Day