This interview was truly born on November 20, 2009. On that Friday, I was riveted by one of the truly great games of last year’s campaign as the result between my alma mater and this school was not decided until the second overtime period. Johns Hopkins emerged victorious that day and perhaps it was then my attention was fully drawn to the excellence that is this program. Quietly, Johns Hopkins is not only one of the premier Division III water polo teams in the nation but they are also a program that is a perennial contender in the East. This point was hammered home with a program best fourth place finish last season at the CWPA Eastern Championships.
The Blue Jays are coached by Ted Bresnahan. Bresnahan has led Johns Hopkins for twenty seasons and entered this campaign with 269 career victories. During his tenure, Bresnahan has guided the Blue Jays to twelve Division III Eastern Championships and has coached thirty-seven All-Americans along with five ACWPC Division III National Players of the Year. I sat down with Coach Bresnahan to discuss this year’s squad and his program’s history of success. Below is our interview.
Johns Hopkins is coming off an outstanding 2009 campaign in which you placed fourth at Easterns. What do your Blue Jays need to do to get back to Easterns and improve on your program best fourth place finish?
We have to reinvent the wheel. By that I mean find out who we are. We are such a young team as we start only two seniors with the rest being sophomores and freshmen. We graduated five starters so our makeup this year is significantly different. Just to make the Eastern Championship this year is one of our season’s goals. The Southern teams all had a very productive recruiting year. We need to be fundamentally sound. Take care of the ball at all times and avoid unforced turnovers. Of course outscoring all our opponents would be ideal.
Johns Hopkins was recently voted Division III Varsity Men's Team of the Decade. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have transformed the Blue Jays over your twenty-year tenure into being a program that is not only elite at the Division III level but has found itself in more than a few national top twenty polls?
First of all, I think of that honor as an area one. There are some great programs that can lay claim to that. The transformation came after many years of recruiting with no help from admissions so I sent them a bushel of jumbo crabs and it has been downhill ever since. Seriously, a few years ago I had lunch with Ms. Amy Brokyl our Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions. I also knew there was a push for students from California. Amy was in charge of that state and she knew water polo would help in this mission. I explained to her what we needed as far as Student/Athletes. Amy introduced me to Mr. John Birney who is our Sr. Director of Undergraduate Admissions. After we met, John and I became close friends and we both have worked closely with Amy to contact, Identify and process Quality Student Athletes from not just California but all States. Mr. Birney is now the Athletic Department’s Academic Liaison. We rely upon Dr. John Latting, our Dean of Undergraduate Admissions to review our recommendations and give us his approval for an admit. Ms. Brokyl, Mr. Birney and Dr. Latting are the reason for any success of the program. I just have some fun with the players in the pool.
Can you tell us a little bit about Alex Whittam and what makes him the effective player that he is?
Alex comes by way of the Stanford Club team. He knows the game in and out. He plays very well to his strengths and has little weaknesses. His intensity carries over to his teammates. Alex had more minutes last year as a freshman than any other player on my roster. He has strong legs and a gifted nose for the back of the net. He is one of the program’s few freshman All-American and first-team All-Southern Conference players. Kyle Gertridge a captain last year told me to give Alex a break in a game against UCLA as he told me Alex was “getting pummeled”. I told him that Alex was building character and he stayed in.
Ross Schofield has also been outstanding for the Blue Jays. What makes him the outstanding player that he is?
Ross Schofield is a very competitive individual. He flat out does not like to lose. Whether its practice, six on five drills or scrimmages he just does not like to lose. Ross is a former high school All-American swimmer and that shows in his game. Ross has a great shot supported by above average leg strength. Ross also has a good understanding of the game. If he stays healthy the Blue Jays stay competitive.
Jeremy Selbst recently won CWPA Southern Division Defensive Player of the Week honors and has been solid in the cage all season. What makes him the high-caliber keeper that he is?
The fact that he was a High School All-American field player from Greenwich gives him a great understanding of when and where shots are coming from. I remembered Coach Terry Lowe telling me that when Selbst was twelve or thirteen he was playing in a youth program out in California. At that time, the coaches told Coach Lowe that Jeremy was the second best Goalie in a camp behind a kid named Sandman who went on to have one heck of a collegiate career. So when Jeremy was admitted to JHU back in the goal he went. At Easterns, last year against your alma mater, a former National team member told me that Jeremy put on one of the best defensive segments in the net that he had ever seen. That will always stay in my mind about Selbst as the former National Player was none other than former Olympian Brad Schumacher.
With that our interview ended. Keep an eye on the Blue Jays through the rest of this season as they are a team to be reckoned with in the East. Wins over Fordham, Bucknell and Whittier along with one-goal losses to Princeton, Navy, Brown and Pomona-Pitzer hammer home that point. This is also a team that peaked down the stretch of last season. In a one-month span last fall, Johns Hopkins won the Division III Eastern Championships, placed third at Southerns and fourth at Easterns. Do not be surprised if that success is replicated again in this campaign.