Nestled on a gorgeous campus in the heart of Staten Island is a women's water polo team eager to make a trip back to the NCAA Tournament. Wagner College started their women's water polo program in 2003 and in that time, they have quickly established themselves as one of the top programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Their current head coach is a rising star who has quietly been outstanding over the past five years as he has quickly raced to one hundred career wins in that time.
Wagner College is led by Pat Beemer who is entering his sixth season. In his tenure, Wagner has claimed three regular season MAAC Championships and competed in the NCAA tournament in 2005. The Seahawks have to be considered a threat to make it back to NCAAs as they return a nice group from a 2009 campaign that saw them finish 17-12 and finish tied with Iona for the regular season MAAC title. As a player, Beemer played goalie for some very successful UC-San Diego squads. I caught up with Coach Beemer to discuss the upcoming campaign and below is our interview.
Wagner is always in the mix for the MAAC title. What does your team have to do to win that title and return to NCAAs this spring?
Our goal every season is to get to the NCAA Tournament and the short answer to that question is win two games at the MAAC Tournament at the end of April. The long answer begins with the preparation we're doing now. I have a strong group of student-athletes who are solely focused on success this season, and one way we define success is winning our conference. That task certainly isn't easy as the level of competition in the MAAC has elevated dramatically over the past decade.
Kelsey Rodgers was the MAAC co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. Can you tell us a little bit about what makes her so effective in the cage?
We're extremely happy to have Kelsey back for the 2010 campaign because she is a difference maker on defense. Her effectiveness in the cage is a reflection of her own drive to be successful. Her work ethic is second to none. That ethic, combined with her athleticism, helped Wagner to a league leading Goals Against Average (GAA) in conference play and earned her Defensive Player of the Year accolades. This year, as the sole senior and captain of the squad, we will certainly rely on Kelsey being the rock of our defense.
Natalie Pyrz had an outstanding sophomore campaign for your squad in earning All-MAAC honors. What makes her the great player that she is?
The maturation process of Natalie as a player has been nothing short of fun to watch. She had a breakout sophomore season and I don't think she reached half of her potential yet. This off-season, she has put in a lot of time in the water and in the gym improving her game. She's a headstrong individual with a nasty perimeter shot. I have always expected great things from Natalie and she hasn't ever not delivered.
I noticed your team will be spending a lot of time in March traveling California and competing in the Cal Lutheran and Aztec Invitationals. How important is it for your squad to go out West and show that the schools in the MAAC can compete with anyone in the country?
It is vitally important for our team to go out west for several reasons. First and foremost, we make that trip to compete against the best in the country. It's an opportunity for us to showcase our talent and get a temperature check on where we stand nationally. Secondly, going west represents a chance for Wagner to get some exposure. We recruit from all parts of the country, but playing in front of California crowds show many high school players that their opportunities to play in college extend beyond the state line. Lastly, it's cold here in March...really cold. Who wouldn't want to spend a week in seventy degree weather and play a game we all love outdoors?
With that our interview ended. Keep an eye out for the little school from Staten Island this year as they have a chance to make some big waves. Perhaps the kind that will lead them to San Diego come May.