Chat With Water Polo's Wall, Hobbs and Akerland

July 2, 2009

Preview by Monica Griffith, SCU Athletics Department Student Assistant

As they are hard at work in summer practices and also working in the Santa Clara University Athletic Department, Water Polo players Jack Wall, Stephen Hobbs and Marcus Akerland discuss their goals for the upcoming season, their jobs and some funny team memories.

SantaClaraBroncos.com will be conducting interviews with members of all the athletic teams. Look for Marcus Akerland's feature with Men's Basketball's Kevin Foster on Monday and John Gragnola's feature of Women's Soccer's Lauren Matheson next Wednesday. A number of athletes and coaches will be featured this summer.

SCU: What do you think is the most important aspect of play your team needs to improve upon for next season?

Stephen Hobbs: There are a lot of things we need to improve on. When we're playing a really top-tier team, we need to play well defensively. Sometimes I feel like we have defensive lapses when we're playing really good teams. So I think it's important to improve our defense all around.

Jack Wall: Legs, definitely. We need to better condition our legs. We tend to get pushed out, and we need to improve on that.

Marcus Akerland: I would say defense as well. Just getting everyone on the same page at the same time, and making sure you're always heads up. If you have six guys on point and one isn't doing what he's supposed to do, it screws everyone else up.

SCU: What do you plan to do to improve on these things during the off-season?

JW: Coach Wilbur has done a lot this off-season to get us into better conditioning shape. When I was an incoming freshman, I was here for the summer program, and it was sort of carefree and we would only practice for an hour or an hour and a half, it was really light. Now coach is talking before the practices, telling us what he wants and we have been working a lot on our strategy and making sure everyone knows what to do. He's also making sure we're better conditioned.

SH: The big thing about conditioning is that it will help us both offensively and defensively. So the more we condition, the better all other aspects of our game will be.

MA: I think also just spending so much time in the pool together everyday will really help too. Just having time together with your teammates is really important.

SCU: Coach Wilbur has signed eight incoming players this year. How do you think some of these new players will contribute to the upcoming season?

JW: Four of the new guys have been playing with us over the summer. They played with us this weekend and showed us that they're going to contribute. I think all four of them--Jack Penner, Patrick Weiss, John Radvanyi (transfer from West Valley College), and Theo Nasser--will make the traveling team. These guys are really making an effort to be at all the practices and show their dedication; they all have really good with work ethic. Penner is a lefty and we very much need a lefty. Hopefully all the incoming freshmen will really be able to contribute.

SH: The other nice thing about having new players is the higher competition level. When they come, they are new guys and fresh faces and they're always trying to work hard. That just pushes us because we're going to look bad if they're out-working us and out-playing us. So I think it's important to have them here during the summer because then when pre-season rolls around, we can focus on working better together as a team instead of trying to integrate new players.

JW: Nobody wants to get beat up by a freshman.

SCU: What teammates of yours who maybe didn't see a lot of playing time last year do you think will really step up and contribute this year?

JW: I think the biggest one is Nick Poggetti. He will be one of our key assets this year. He's worked hard and improved. Everyone has been improving. With our new off-season workout plan, most everybody got in better shape and got bigger. Mitch (Klipa), James (Case), Sorgenfrei (Mike) and I tried out for the US National Team, and got some experience with other coaches and other players, and I think they have all improved. Poggetti has just gotten a lot better as a player

MA: Josh Luebke has done really well so far this summer in the games we have played. He did really well against Cal this past weekend.

JW: We really need everybody though. Everybody needs to step up and play well in order to achieve what we want to.

SCU: If you had to name one team goal for the upcoming season, what would it be?

All: Win WWPAs.

JW: We don't even have to talk about it, we all know. It's my final year and I've been working for it the last four years. It's something I really want, and I think everyone's on the same page, it's just a matter of getting there conditioning-wise and strategy-wise. The conditioning is going to be really hard this week, and we're still months away, but that's what keeps us motivated.

SCU: This is your first full season playing in the brand new Sullivan Aquatic Center. How do you think this will affect the team?

JW: This is our first summer playing in it. Last year we had to go to West Valley everyday, which was a burden. In addition, we still had weights in the morning, so to be able to have the new pool and a place to call home makes such a big difference.

MA: Since it's here we have more time to practice and spend less time driving. And since it's our pool, we don't have to work around other peoples' schedule; we have priority. So we're going to be a lot better conditioned this season than we were last season.

JW: We're going to have about 10 games at home this season, the first one being on September 26, the first week after school starts. One thing that I've been working on with the athletic department is being able to instill an idea of Bronco Pride for all the sports, and make the students want to go to all the games, not just ones like Gonzaga or St. Mary's. So it would be great if we could make that happen and instill that idea in our freshmen--but it's really got to start with the upper classmen. A crowd makes the biggest difference at all our games, whether it's soccer, basketball, water polo any of the teams will tell you that having the crowd behind you makes all the difference.

SCU: You three are all working in the athletics department this summer. How do you think your work ethic and dedication transfer over from the pool to your jobs?

JW: Well, sitting at a desk for seven hours, I get a little restless. So once I'm able to get out of here, I make the most of my time. I lift and go out in practice pretty hard.

MA: I think being an athlete has helped me with my time management skills, especially with school because you have to factor in practices and stuff so it helps when you're trying to manage your tasks at work. I think it's great working for the athletic department as a student-athlete, because you get to get to know a lot of the athletes in other sports, and really start to feel like a bigger part of everything we have going on here. You really get to see both sides. On one side, you get to talk to all the players and on the other side you get to be a player, so it's interesting.

JW: We're also all working with other people so we have all been working together in order to get everything done. I've worked for the athletic department for 3 ½ years now, I've worked at basketball games and the Bronco Bench, and one thing I've learned is that our alumni are very connected and have a strong attachment to Santa Clara and the sports. The water polo program is a program on the rise and we have been improving each year, ranking 15th last year, and hopefully this year we'll break the top 10. So getting the alumni interested in our program has been great and the progress has been neat to see--stuff like the new pool and the crowds at our games.

SCU: Stephen and Marcus, how would you compare Coach Wilbur to your boss, Michelle Schmitt?

SH: Well, she talks a lot more than he does. Coach isn't a big talker, but Michelle loves to talk. They have different personalities, and it's different being in a work setting.

MA: They both have really funny jokes.

SCU: What's your favorite thing to eat after a long, strenuous workout?

MA: Deep fried Oreo's from Senores.

JW: I like everything.

SH: I have to give a shout out to my grandma. Every Sunday we have pasta with her homemade red sauce, so that's definitely my favorite.

SCU: What's the funniest thing Coach Wilbur has ever said/done?

JW: He fell in the pool when we were playing UOP one time. I think it was my freshman year. He was leaning over yelling at us during third quarter or halftime and you just see him start waving his hands trying to reach for something, and he just flopped right on into the pool. That was one of the funniest things I've seen.

SH: Another time he was trying to make an `up dog' joke, (where you say something like `it smells like up dog' and the other person says `what's up dog'). So he tried to make a swim set where he said okay, 25 `up dogs' on the :50, and he wanted us to say `what's up dog', but everyone knew what he was trying to do, and nobody really laughed. So he has some jokes where everyone just says `huh?'

SCU: What do you like to do to celebrate a victory?

JW: I think being with the team, no matter what it is, we're always together. Even last Saturday night, it was the first time we had had a lot of the freshmen together and we decided to have them stay with us just to hang out and be together. And we dance. We have a lot of dancers. Hobbs loves to shimmy.

SCU: Tell me about a favorite team memory.

SH: I would say beating LMU last year. It's probably the biggest win that I've been a part of so far. But it definitely won't be the biggest that I will be a part of here.

MA: Well, we beat Davis last year after we lost to Redlands in a double header. We lost to Redlands in the morning and everyone was sort of pissed off, but then we came back and took it all out on Davis, which felt good.

JW: This is going back awhile, but my freshman year, we upset the No.10 ranked UOP, which was the first time we beat a top 10 team, and it was in the final couple seconds, so it was really cool. But I really think my favorite memories are the times we are together outside of the games and outside of the pool. I think that's what makes a team closer. Like trips to LA or Princeton when it's just the team and we're all together gearing up for four or five games in only a few days and we all have the same team goals. I think it's just the time you spend outside the pool with each other that really creates the atmosphere for good play.