Aug. 28, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The men's water polo team began pre-season practice last week under first year head coach Keith Wilbur. The team has a very young look this season with the eldest members being two juniors, Logan Gee and J.P. Doucette.
"Last year's team graduated a lot of starters and this year we are really young," Wilbur said. "We have no seniors on the team this year. We have two juniors and the rest are sophomores and freshman, so it is a very young team. Honestly, I think this year is going to be a building year for us. Whatever we do this year we will have the entire team back next year, plus whatever freshman come in, and let's not forget the two starters (Gareth Owens and Dan Figoni) whom are studying abroad right now."
One of the key losses from last year included Jay Moorhead who earned second team All-WWPA honors and scored 172 goals in his career. Wilbur, however, isn't focusing on the loss, but rather on the talented players that remain on the team.
"I have coached other teams where we have graduated our star player or lost a star player for whatever reason, I think that once those players are gone the others will step up. There are a lot of talented players on this team. Maybe when they were playing with Jay they complimented him. I think they have the ability to step up when he is not here. Like I said Grant Allison is solid, Nick Takahashi can do a lot of things on the perimeter, and we have a bunch of guys that are able to play and put the ball in the goal. Jay was a great player here, but we can't worry about not having him this year; we have to work with what we have."
There will plenty of playing time to fight for this season, leaving the freshman at somewhat of an advantage, as they will have the opportunity to get experience and to develop rapidly.
"We are going to have to rely on at least three freshman to play in tight games, where as if we had a little more depth it might take a year or two before they played in tight games, but we are going to need them this year. So, it is going to be a learning experience, but it is going to give them a chance to improve more rapidly than freshman in other programs so it is good for them."
Despite the new players coming in this season, it will be the returning players that are going to be the key guys this season.
"We have a strong two-meter man, Grant, that we run our team around. We have only had a week of practice but from what I can see he is really solid at that position, and you need a good two-meter man to run your offense. He is a two-meter stud. He knows how to play the position, and is very smart, and very strong. Another strong returning player is Nick. He can play everything and he is going to be a guy we really depend upon this year.
"We have a strong goalie, Peter Moore, and if you have a good goalie the team can rely on him to play good defense, and it helps to feed the counter because every time you have a shot you are ready to go and counter attack hard. I really haven't seen any weaknesses in his game. Then our two juniors are really good players, Logan and J.P. They are solid players that work hard and are good team leaders, which is certainly going to help us lead the team and create good team chemistry."
The players have been working hard in practice, but Wilbur has been taking the opportunity to get to know the players.
"I am honestly focusing on everything in practice. This is my first time with these guys and we have a game in two weeks, so I'm doing everything. I'd say the biggest focus is getting them in shape right now, but we are going over defense, offense, we are doing counter attack, man-up offense, man-up defense. We're doing something-different everyday. So, I think the key right now is getting them in shape and we're going over the basics like standard defense, standard offense and what you do. So, we might not have more intricate plays until later in the season because it is just a time factor right now."
There are many teams on the 2002 schedules that the Broncos have faced in the past. Wilbur's goal is to be a competitive force against all their opponents.
"There are teams that we played last year like UC Santa Cruz and La Verne, that we have beat in the past, that we want to continue to beat. My goal as a coach is to move the team up in the WWPAs to the point where we are continuing to win. Again, this is our first year together and I'm not sure if that is going to happen this year, but our first step toward doing that is beating the teams we are supposed to beat, playing against good competition and showing that we can play with them and hopefully building to a point where we can.
"From my standpoint all our league games our big. We are in the Triton Tournament in September and we are going to be playing a bunch of teams from our league down south. Same thing with the Redlands Tournament. Basically, we are trying to improve throughout the year. At the end we have the WWPA Championship and there is where it counts and everything else leading up to that is trying to improve so we can have the best performance possible at the at our conference championships at the end of the year. Again this is my first year, but I think UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz are pretty big rivals for us, and I know the guys get fired up for them. But in terms of who we can beat I need to see all the teams before I can answer that."
Overall, Wilbur is looking forward to this season and the potential the program has to continue to improve.
"I think there is a lot of potential on this team and I am very excited about it. The guys on the team are great. They are working well as a team, and they have a great attitude. The interest I have seen from recruits is very positive, also. I like the guys that are here and the guys that are interested in coming here and I think this program has a lot of room for growth."
The Broncos first match is scheduled for September 7 against Loyola Marymount in San Diego, Calif.