March 26, 2012

Water Polo: Inside the Game with Versatile Playmaker Ali Norris

By, Vince Menon

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Starting utility player Alison Norris (AN) has emerged as one of the women's water polo team's most versatile and dependable competitors in 2012. The junior from Saratoga, Calif. has provided consistent punch to the Broncos' offensive attack and has contributed at the 2M position as well. Over the weekend, SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) caught up with the former All-WWPA Freshman Team honoree about the team's recent matchups, her role as a utility and 2M player and her prep experience with the Stanford Club program.

SCB: The team has played in 23 games so far, with its most recent test coming this past Sunday at the UOP Invitational. What did you need to do as a team and as an individual to compete against the powerful Maryland and UC Davis squads?

AN: We have had a two week break from games because of finals, so this was a great way to kick off the second half of our season. Both Maryland and Davis are very good, physical teams and so it was good to have those two games before our conference games Thursday [at Sonoma State] and this weekend [against LMU and CSU Bakersfield]. We worked really hard in practice on shooting, counters and a strong press on defense and these games gave us an opportunity to do the things we worked on in practice.

SCU: You had faced UC Davis twice this year in hard-fought battles before squaring off again over the weekend. What did you expect from them? What did you change and what did you do more of this time around?

AN: I think we all wanted to do better than we did two weeks ago against Davis, and come out with a lot of intensity. I think the Davis game was one of the best games we have played all season, and we showed a lot of progress on the things we worked on in practice. I think we played a lot stronger than the score of the game reflects, and it's just a matter of putting away our shots and six on fives and not letting a team get easy goals.

SCB: The matchup against Maryland marked the start of seven consecutive road matches. How is it playing on the road? What parts are more challenging, and how do you adjust to that? On the positive side, does it provide an opportunity to bond with teammates?

AN: Our team is very close. During road games we have a lot of fun; we definitely bond. The parents are amazing, and every away tournament they have arranged food between games, and dinner each night. We have an amazing amount of support when we travel and usually more fans than the home team! The part that's the most challenging is adjusting to different pools. Most courses have the same set up, but there are a few pools, such as Sonoma on Thursday, that are very, very small. This changes how we counter attack, but is something we have always been able to overcome.

SCB: As a starting utility player on the team, what are the key aspects of your position and what attributes and abilities are most important in order to succeed?

AN: I think the most important thing for a utility player is awareness. You have to be aware on offense and see if you should set or drive, but also you have to counter hard on defense and make sure that we're covered. I think that as a utility player I set up a lot of plays which allows my other teammates to be open and to get points on the board.

SCB: You're also able to play inside at the 2M position. How does your role at the 2M differ from playing utility? In addition to having a different role, does your mentality change? How do you adapt to the position switch?

AN: Because I am a utility player and a strong 2M, I am usually put in with either Laura Espinosa or Kaitlin Murphy who are the primary 2M players. I usually post up early on counters or when they lose position. When I go to post up I focus more on offense than when I am playing utility and am either trying to score or draw an ejection. Our team has a lot of players who are able to post up and play 2M which creates more offense opportunities for the rest our team.

SCB: It may not be the easiest ability to measure, but how important is having a good sense and feel for the game in determining overall performance? How does it impact your personal game?

AN: Water polo is a fast paced game. You have to be aware of both offense and defense and have to be able to switch between offense and defense quickly. In my personal game on offense I try to be patient and read the defense before I make a pass so that I don't turn the ball over. When I'm playing defense I try to read the players so I can get one step ahead of them to make a steal or a counter attack.

SCB: You prepped nearby at Saratoga High School and also participated in the Stanford Club program. How did these experiences help prepare you for collegiate play? Are you current teammates with anyone from these programs or are your former high school teammates now college opponents?

AN: I think that Stanford Club was a great program, and most of the players I know on other teams are players who were on my Stanford team.  There are six other Stanford Club players currently on the Santa Clara team, so it's great being able to play with them on a collegiate level. Stanford was a huge reason I came to Santa Clara because I was able to play for Coach Wilbur my junior year of high school and he's one of main reasons I'm at SCU.  

SCB: In your free time, what are your favorite hobbies?

AN: When I do have free time I love watching other sports and I also love digital photography. I'm also an Alpha Phi so I volunteer a lot of my time to help with philanthropy events.

SCB: You're a communication and psychology double major. Do you have any thoughts on what you might like to do post-SCU?

AN: I haven't really decided what I want to do yet, but probably something in the communications field. Right now I'm looking for a summer internship involving Public Relations and hopefully that will help me decide what to do after college.