In May of 2010, a new varsity water polo program was born in the Southern California hotbed of our sport. Vanguard University made the decision to begin competing in men’s and women’s varsity water polo with the men’s squad’s kicking off their inaugural season at the Navy Labor Day Open. The Lions are an NAIA school just like Concordia and we all know the success that the Eagles have achieved in a short period of time.
Vanguard is coached by Ed Carrera. Carrera previously served as an Assistant Men’s and Women’s Coach at Concordia and as the Boy’s and Girl’s Coach at Northwood High School. As a player, Carrera played water polo at various places across the globe. This included stints with both Chapman University and in Argentina for two seasons with Club Gremio. I sat down with Coach Carrera to discuss his new challenge at Vanguard and below is our interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about the biggest challenges you have faced in starting the Vanguard program from scratch?
The biggest challenge has been having a permanent training facility. Costa Mesa's fifty-meter pool was scheduled to be ready in August and it is now looking like November 2010. We're doing the best we can with what we have.
I saw that you hit the ground running from a recruiting perspective as you have assembled a competitive roster very quickly. Can you tell us a little bit about your newcomers and whom might have an immediate impact for Vanguard?
Israel Perez is our primary two-meter player, he has a great water polo IQ and he's explosive. David Buckalew, Sam Gonzales, Kevin Burzynski make up the core of my guys. They are solid defenders. Remington McKittrick is my fastest and one of my smartest players in the water.
What are your offensive and defensive philosophies and what style of play should we expect out of Vanguard?
This first year, I want us to make sure we are fundamentally sound. We have some walk-ons that have potential but still need some of those basics. With a limited bench I want to slow the games down and play more of a half-court game. Our first option will be two-meter and if that isn't established we will go into a motion offense.
On the defensive side we have guys that can put a lot of pressure on two-meter players so we are going to press until we have to run a drop.
I noted that you have a very competitive schedule which includes trips to the Navy Labor Day Open and Claremont Convergence. What expectations are you setting for your team in what is Vanguard's inaugural campaign?
I want us to be competitive and for the players to get prepared for the upcoming years (everyone will be returning next year). Getting better is more important than winning. If we are improving from game to game and learning from our mistakes then that will be a success this first year. Being .500 would exceed my expectations.
Last season, another Southern California based NAIA squad in Concordia had a ton of success as they finished last season ranked eleventh in the country and beat traditional power teams like UC-Irvine, St. Francis and Navy to finish an impressive 26-5 overall. Is that success the goal that Vanguard hopes to be able to achieve over the next five years?
Yes, that is what we are working for. We want to be able to play and compete at the highest level and really make the NAIA a reputable water polo organization. I think Concordia really opened the door to give other NAIA schools the opportunity to compete against NCAA D1, D2 and D3 schools. Many NCAA schools now want to play Concordia because of their ranking, it was pulling teeth trying to get a game with my own bro =).
With that our interview ended. I thought one of the great stories of last season was the success that Concordia had. It showed that a top-tier water polo team can be created from scratch. Hiring somebody with close ties to that program was a savvy move by the administration at Vanguard and it will not shock me when this program begins compiling notable victories. Welcoming new programs to our sport is always exciting. Watching them blossom is even better. We look forward to that day at Vanguard and we do think it will arrive sooner rather than later.