Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Sophomore Ciara Franke looks to lead the Tritons to a Harper Cup victory on Saturday.

Harper Cup at Stake for Franke, No. 14 Tritons at No. 17 San Diego State on Saturday

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. — As a dual-sport athlete at UC San Diego, sophomore Ciara Franke excels at mostly everything in the water.

But being a goalkeeper isn't one of them.

The daughter of former Triton All-American goalkeeper Randy Franke, who ranks fifth all-time in career saves for the men’s program and is now an assistant coach with the women’s team, Ciara made her own path in water polo her freshman season at La Jolla High School.

In addition to starting as a field player on the varsity team, Franke was a goalkeeper for the Vikings’ junior varsity squad. It didn’t last long, however.

“The ball was flying at my face, so I did a lot of ducking,” she said while laughing. “It wasn’t for me.”

It’s safe to say Franke made the right decision, as the sophomore standout is second on the Tritons with 47 goals heading into Saturday’s Harper Cup rivalry game against No. 17 San Diego State. The contest begins at 1 p.m. at SDSU’s Aztec Aquaplex.

Franke is the game’s reigning MVP after a two-goal, four-steal performance in UC San Diego’s 6-5 home victory a year ago, and her face lights up when thinking back to her first Harper Cup contest. 

“To get MVP my freshman year at our home pool was an amazing experience,” said Franke. “I remember after my second goal, I came up out of the water and everybody was yelling and screaming. The crowd was great.”

Although she didn’t follow in her father’s footsteps as being a goalkeeper, Franke appreciates having her dad on the sidelines as a member of the coaching staff.

“It’s fun, I know he’s always there after the game to be a parent and not a coach,” she said. “But during games, it’s nice to know that he’s on the bench and if need a little extra guidance, I can turn to him. 

“He just knows what to say, one or two words, to make sure I keep up my game.”

A native of San Diego, Franke has fought through a vigorous grind in recent months of balancing school work with competing in both water polo as well as the swimming and diving team.

The sophomore finished as the national runner-up and an All-American in the 200-meter freestyle in March, in addition to earning All-America accolades as a member of the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams.

Winter quarter is especially challenging for her busy schedule, but Franke understands academics come first.

After initially being interested in sports medicine, Franke is majoring in human development and intends on pursuing a career in speech pathology. 

“I love the whole dynamic of how we grow up and what affects how we develop,” she said. “I have to focus on getting my school work done because that’s most important. I get a lot of help from teammates and coaches, so it’s manageable.” 

But for now, the Franke and the Tritons are attempting to win their fourth-straight Harper Cup, which would also only be the second time they’ve won the annual matchup at SDSU’s Aztec Aquaplex.

“It would be a huge accomplishment for us,” she said. “We’ve been preparing all week, but mostly focusing on us and our game, and not worrying too much about what (SDSU) is going to do. 

“Controlling what we can control is essential.”


National Rank: 14 (CWPA)
Overall: 17-13
WWPA: 4-0
Home: 8-4
Away: 1-1
Neutral: 8-8


Game 31
vs. San Diego State 15-13 (5-2 GCC)
Saturday, April 20 • 1 p.m. PT
Aztec Aquaplex • San Diego, Calif.
Live Stats


The Harper Cup is named in honor of UC San Diego men’s water polo coach Denny Harper, who played at San Diego State and received his undergraduate degree from the school in 1978. He established the SDSU women’s water polo club team and went on to coach the UC San Diego women’s team to five collegiate national championships from 1985-99. The inaugural Harper Cup game between the crosstown foes came in 2002. SDSU won the first 12 matchups, but UC San Diego has won four of the last five Harper Cup meetings. The Tritons took home the cup for the first time in 2014 with an 8-5 decision in La Jolla. In 2016, UC San Diego won the Harper Cup for just the second time in dramatic fashion at Canyonview Aquatic Center, as Lauren Boyer drilled a back-handed shot into the cage for the game-winning goal in the second sudden-death overtime. Boyer earned Harper Cup MVP honors after finishing with a game-high five goals in UC San Diego's 10-6 road victory over the Aztecs in 2017, and Ciara Franke garnered the game's MVP accolades in 2018 after finishing with two goals and four steals in a thrilling 6-5 Triton win. Shelby Stender scored the game-winning goal in 2018 off an assist from Kayla Fedler with 1:38 left to play, capping a furious 5-2 Triton run to close the game.


UC San Diego is 19-33 (.353) all-time against San Diego State and 4-13 in Harper Cup meetings. However, the Tritons have won four of the last five Harper Cups and five of the last seven meetings overall. The Tritons won last season's Harper Cup matchup for the third-straight year against the Aztecs, 6-5.


On Nov. 27, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020 and will play a full Big West schedule. However, UC San Diego women's water polo will join the Big West Conference in the spring of 2020 and immediately resume its eligibility to compete in the NCAA Championship. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.



  • The Tritons are ranked No. 14 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Top 25 for the second-consecutive week, which matches the highest UC San Diego has been ranked this season.
  • UC San Diego has won six-consecutive Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) championships en route to six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
  • The Tritons have won seven of its last eight games and 42-consecutive WWPA regular-season contests.
  • UC San Diego split two home contests last weekend, defeating Pomona-Pitzer on Senior Night, 12-4, one night after a narrow loss to No. T-6 UC Irvine, 11-8.
  • The Tritons have already faced seven teams this season ranked in the top-10 of the CWPA Top 25 (USC, Cal, Hawai'i, Pacific, Michigan, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara twice).
  • UC San Diego has also played and seven other opponents ranked in the top 25 (Loyola Marymount twice, Indiana, San Jose State, Wagner, Long Beach State twice, CSUN, Marist and California Baptist).
  • Sophomore Grace Pevehouse leads the Tritons with 50 goals and 62 total points.
  • Sophomore Taylor Onstott ranks second on the team with 46 goals, 16 assists and 62 total points, and leads the Tritons with 32 steals. 
  • Senior Krista Schneider has a team-high 26 assists and is second on the team with 25 steals.
  • Sophomore goalkeeper Bennett Bugelli is 9-9 in the net this season as a starter, recording 145 saves with a .558 save percentage.
  • Junior goalkeeper Reilly Gallagher has a 7-4 record as a starter, and has amassed 103 saves with a .498 save percentage.


WWPA Standings
1. UC San Diego: 4-0, 17-13
2. Gannon: 3-0, 7-14
3. Salem: 2-1,13-12
4. Fresno Pacific: 2-1, 7-19
5. McKendree: 1-2, 11-12
6. Cal State East Bay: 1-2, 12-14
7. Sonoma State: 1-2, 7-13
8. Cal State Monterey Bay: 0-3, 7-15
9. Mercyhurst: 0-3, 6-16


For full rankings click here.
• Preseason: 15
• Week 1: 21
• Week 2: 21
• Week 3: 20
• Week 4: T-17
• Week 5: T-17
• Week 6: 14
• Week 7: 14
• Week 8: 17
• Week 9: 16
• Week 10: 17
• Week 11: 17
• Week 12: 14
• Week 13: 14


The Tritons return five starters and 17 players total from last season’s squad, including All-WWPA First-Team selections senior Chanel Schilling, senior Krista Schneider and junior goalkeeper Reilly Gallagher. Sophomore Grace Pevehouse earned All-WWPA Honorable Mention in 2018, while Taylor Onstott was named WWPA Newcomer of the Year and joined Ciara Franke on the WWPA All-Freshman Team. In addition, sophomore goalkeeper Bennett Bugelli was named WWPA Championship MVP.


Roster | Schedule | Statistics 
• Overall: 15-13
• GCC: 5-2 
• Home: 5-5
• Away: 4-2 
• Neutral: 6-6
• National Ranking: 17


2019 WWPA Preseason Coaches Poll (first-place votes)
1. UC San Diego - 64 points, (8)
2. Cal State East Bay - 57 points, (1)
3. Sonoma State - 44 points
4. Fresno Pacific - 42 points
5. Cal State Monterey Bay - 40 points
6. Mercyhurst - 28 points
7. McKendree - 21 points
8. Gannon - 15 points
9. Salem - 13 points


UC San Diego is coming off a 24-12 campaign in 2018 and a berth in the NCAA Opening Round. The Tritons defeated 11 ranked opponents and won their sixth-consecutive WWPA Championship en route to a sixth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Five Tritons received ACWPC All-America accolades last season, including first-team selections Kayla Fedler and Chanel Schilling, second-team choices Krista Schneider and Reilly Gallagher, and honorable mention Taylor Onstott. Head coach Brad Kreutzkamp was named WWPA Coach of the Year for the fourth time in nine seasons at the helm, as he also moved up into second place all-time in coaching victories for the program. 


Head coach Brad Kreutzkamp is in his 10th season at the helm, and ranks second all-time in victories in UC San Diego women's water polo history with a record of 200-140 (.588). Last season, Kreutzkamp passed former head coach Larry Sanders' total of 180 wins amassed during his tenure from 2000-09. A four-time ACWPC Coach of the Year and four-time WWPA Coach of the Year, Kreutzkamp has led the Tritons to seven WWPA championships and seven NCAA Championship appearances in nine seasons. Last season, the Tritons captured their sixth-straight WWPA title and seventh overall under Kreutzkamp's leadership. A former head coach of both the boy's and girl's varsity programs at Grossmont High School from 1996-99, Kreutzkamp came to UC San Diego as an assistant coach with the women's team in 1999 before joining longtime head coach Denny Harper on the men's staff the following season. You can read Kreutzkamp's complete bio here.


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About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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