Located at the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley is a school boasting a water polo program that has become a fixture in the national rankings. Despite graduating a number of key contributors from last season, Jason Gall quietly has an improving Cal State Bakersfield squad ranked twentieth in the country. The USC grad came to Bakersfield in July of 2007 after leading Brown’s men and women for three seasons. In this short time, he has won WWPA Coach of the Year honors and was responsible for the first two NCAA Division I All-Americans in Bakersfield history. I sat down to discuss this year’s squad with Coach Gall and below is our interview.
Your team has been playing better water polo as the season has progressed and Bakersfield looks like it could be one of the stiffest challengers Loyola Marymount might face at WWPAs. What does your team have to do to make this season a successful one and finish strong at the WWPA Tournament?
We graduated 45% of our scoring from last year and 70% of our earned exclusions as well as the 2009 first-team WWPA Goalie. We are currently starting three freshmen with several other underclassmen getting significant playing time. We have to continue to improve in the fundamental areas of the game, offense, defense, six on five, etc. In the beginning of the season, we didn’t really know how to compete with the teams in the top twenty. We have now figured out how to compete, and now need to learn how to win on a consistent basis. I think there are several teams in our conference that can challenge LMU at the end of the year. For us, it will be about doing the little things better than our opponents in order to be successful.
Alyson Moss has been one of your top players all season long. What makes her the effective player that she is?
Aly is one of our two captains as well as one of our top scorers. She is arguably the hardest worker on the team and has reached this level of success due in large part to her work ethic and her ability to push herself in practice every day. In addition to her offense, what really makes Aly a special player is her ability to disrupt the opponent’s offense with her perimeter defense. She leads our team in steals mostly because she has great reflexes, reactions and instincts. She is excellent at jumping in passing lanes and picking off passes that are around her. Offensively, Aly leads our team in assists and is second on the team in goals scored. She reads the defense well, sees the offense develop, and is able to take the correct shot and make the right pass on a consistent basis.
Kaitlin Torres has emerged as a star for your squad this season. What has led to the growth of her game this season?
Experience and opportunity has allowed Kaitlin to be the offensive weapon that she is. Kaitlin is one of the most natural offensive players that I have ever coached. Not only does she have a great ability to read the goalie and read defenses, but she is able to put the ball where she wants it. Kaitlin also has a very quick first stroke and great reactions which gives her the ability to get up on the counter and get open on drives. As good as Kaitlin is now, she is still improving and is not even close to reaching her potential in the pool.
Becky Seelos has quietly been a solid performer for your team all season. What makes her consistent performer that she is?
This year Becky has really learned how to use her strength and speed to improve her game. As far as pure strength goes, Becky is one of our strongest players. She is an extremely fierce competitor and can often get us going if we need her to. Becky is one of our two captains and has been a four-year starter here so she is confident in her abilities to match up against just about anyone that we compete against. Becky is a fierce competitor and is someone that I know will be ready to compete every time we play.
With that our interview ended. Keep an eye on the Roadrunners as this season winds down as this is a team that is better than its overall record would indicate. In the last weekend of March, Cal State Bakersfield took down fifteenth-ranked UC-Davis and lost a one-goal thriller to WWPA rival and eighteenth-ranked UC-San Diego. This is a young team that is beginning to find its stride and could be ready to create some havoc at the WWPA Championships that commence at the end of this month.