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July 12, 2024

Ohlone names Lisa Cooper new women’s water polo head coach

Ohlone College Dean of Kinesiology, Athletics and Performing Arts Chris Warden has announced the hiring of Lisa Cooper as the Renegades’ new women’s water head coach.

Copper comes to Ohlone after a successful 22-year career at Cal State East Bay (CSUEB) where she held the same position. She is one of the winningest coaches of any sport in CSUEB history with 346 career victories.

“I am really excited to coach at Ohlone and the opportunity to build a water polo program,” said Cooper. “The campus and the pool are absolutely beautiful. There is a lot of water polo talent in and around Fremont. I am looking forward to establishing a place where local players want to come and play with the ultimate goal of transferring to a four-year university.”

At CSUEB, Cooper was twice named Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) National Division II Coach of the Year. She has also been named conference coach of the year, Collegiate III National Championship Coach of the year, and won CSUEB’s only National Championship of any sports program this century.

Her 2024 squad compiled a 19-12 overall record and advanced to Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) conference championship game. Following the season, the women’s water polo program was discontinued by the university.

“It is truly unfortunate that Cal State East Bay discontinued its water polo program,” said Warden. “However, I am extremely excited to have Coach Cooper with us as a result of that change. I am very excited to work with Lisa to rebuild our women’s program and to continue our great tradition of academic and athletic excellence.”

Throughout her time with East Bay, Cooper coached over 50 NCAA All-Americans and over 170 Academic All-Americans. Her teams have consistently performed in the pool and in the classroom. The squads also received Academic All-American Team Honors in 21 out of her 22 years as head coach.

Cooper has coached two NCAA Division II National Players of the Year as well as a Division III National Player of the Year while three of her athletes were named Conference Player of the Year.

Under Cooper in 2008, the Pioneers won their first-ever Collegiate III National Championship. The Pioneers (20-14) went 5-0 in the championships, including a four-overtime win against Cal Lutheran in the title match. The championship victory over Cal Lutheran was Cooper’s 100th win as coach of the Pioneer women’s water polo team and garnered her Collegiate III National Coach of the Year honors. In 2010, CSUEB changed from NCAA DIII to NCAA DII.

The 2008 championship was the first national championship for the Cal State East Bay intercollegiate athletic program in 20 years. The Pioneers had five All-Americans in 2008, including goalkeeper Ellie Wilhelmsen, who was named Collegiate III National Player of the Year. In 2018, Wilhelmsen became the first female water polo player inducted into the Pioneer Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2022, Kim Johnson became the second women’s water polo player all-time to be inducted into the hall of fame.

Cooper is the former chair of the NCAA women’s water polo committee, as well as the NCAA men’s and women’s rules subcommittee. She also served for many years as the coaches chair of the WWPA Conference.

Coach Cooper’s philosophy combines both academic and athletic excellence. She believes her athletes are students first and foremost, and sees water polo as an integral part of their overall college experience. Cooper believes that the overall development of her athletes is of the utmost importance, and is taught through the life skills of teamwork, discipline, persistence, communication, and dedication.

A native of Perth, Australia, Cooper started playing water polo at the age of 14. She was a member of the Western Australian State Junior Team that won national championships in 1996 and 1998. Cooper also was a member of the Australian National Youth and National Junior Teams. Cooper played collegiately at the University of Hawai’i, where she was an All-American and Academic All-American, was the Rainbow Wahine’s top scholar-athlete, leading goal scorer, and received the team’s most outstanding player award.

Cooper graduated from the University of Hawai’i with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and completed her master’s degree in kinesiology (sports psychology and skill acquisition) at Cal State East Bay. In 2018, she was named to Cal State East Bay’s “40 under 40” List recognizing distinguished alumni.

Cooper resides in Fremont with her husband Eric, and their two daughters, Summer and Autumn. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and working out.


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