Returning the core of a squad primed to challenge for an Eastern title is an Ivy League power that has traditionally been one of the strongest water polo programs on the East Coast. Brown brings back the finest one-two punch east of the Mississippi and they are prepared to make national noise in 2012.
This CWPA sleeper is led by one of the finest young coaches on the East Coast in Felix Mercado. The Miami, FL native has already earned three CWPA Northern Division Coach of the Year honors in his young coaching career and this year’s squad is his best yet. I caught up with Coach Mercado earlier this month to discuss his team and below is our interview.
Brown returns a core that should challenge for an Eastern Championship and Final Four bid. What does your squad need to do to achieve those goals?
If we are going to challenge for an Eastern Championship, we need to be more consistent with our defense. I feel we can score goals with anyone, but we need to be able to hold teams under their normal output offensively. Defense is measured by effort not talent. We need that to be our bread and butter.
Svetozar Stefanovic has been an All-American performer for Brown through the years. What makes him the special player he is?
With what he has done the last three years no one can question his talent and abilities. His work ethic has improved every year and most importantly, his commitment to his teammates. When it comes to what really makes him special I would have to say it is his teammates. He believes in them and they believe in him as a leader.
James MacNamara is the other half of what is a devastating one-two punch. What makes him the standout performer he is?
James loves water polo and works tirelessly to improve every practice and game. He is fully committed to being the best defensive player and offensive player he can be. He is the leader of our defense and is the engine that makes our offense go.
I thought CWPA North Newcomer of the Year Henry Fox was an underrated cog in your engine last fall. What are you expecting from him this season?
Henry will only get better this year. His work ethic will not allow him to not improve. He is looking to be a bigger defensive presence on the team without falling off offensively. I hope his work ethic rubs off on the incoming freshmen.
I noted Brown signed an impressive three person recruiting class. Can you tell us a little about your newcomers?
All three will add much needed depth to our team. That is something we were sorely missing the last couple of years. Will Klein comes from Pasadena High School and Rose Bowl Club. He gives us depth at the Center Defense position and brings a solid perimeter game as well. Matthias Gallas from Chadwick High and Los Angeles Water Polo Club will add speed on our counter and will provide another consistent outside shooter. Last but not least will is Hank Lee from Newport Harbor High and Newport club team. He brings a tireless work ethic and will be another option on the perimeter and counterattack. I am very excited to see what this team can do this year.
With that, I let Coach Mercado get back to preparing for the upcoming fall. The talent level at Brown is outstanding and the expectations are high in Providence. I have always had a ton of respect for their program and that goes back to my playing days in the late 1990s. Coach Mercado is one of the most underrated water polo minds out there as his knowledge and overall approach to every game has always impressed me. I look forward to watching Brown contend for an Eastern title this season as they return the talent that makes Final Four dreams possible.