Last year, the Long Beach State men's water polo squad had a season befitting the nickname given to the city of “aquatic capital of America”. The 49ers finished ranked fifth in the country and were powered by outstanding players such as Spencer White, Nick Rascon and Dan Matulis. With that in the background, we decided to sit down with Gavin Arroyo and see what the 49ers expect to achieve this fall.
The 49ers are led by Gavin Arroyo. Arroyo is known as being one of the finest two-meter defenders our country has ever seen. A member of the United States National Team from 1993-2000, Arroyo competed in the Olympics in 1996 and 2000. Arroyo graduated from Cal in 1994 and won three NCAA Championships during his playing days. I caught up with Coach Arroyo to discuss his squad and below is our interview.
Long Beach State had an outstanding season last year which culminated with a strong finish at MPSFs. Can you tell us little about that campaign in which you finished ranked fifth nationally and how you can build off of that for this season?
I think I have learned a tremendous amount with the challenges of coaching at Long Beach State. Last year was the result of nothing more than staying consistent with our beliefs, culture, and approach to respecting the plight of the group. In sport, there are no guarantees. As long as you stay true to the cause, good results will eventually come. It takes time to build true innate confidence. I think our confidence level rose toward the end of the season and the timing worked out as far as when it was time to peak.
The challenge of course is protecting that confidence. It takes time to create true confidence. It must be built step by step and have a strong foundation. This season will certainly test this group as we look to compete with the best. We have a difficult road schedule with the MPSF conference games. This season's success will be based off of how we compete on the road.
What does Long Beach State need to do to make a move into a top three to four spot at MPSFs this season?
That would be a tall order considering the strength of the big four along with a strong UOP. We will continue to do everything we have done up until now. Nothing changes in terms of preparation. Expectations change. How one sees their abilities change. These external factors ultimately serve no purpose other than confidence building. If expectations are too high, it can serve as a distraction to the content of what is truly important. We are competing against ourselves and how collectively we react to success and failure. Our goal is to retain a strong representation of what Long Beach State water polo means. As long as we do that, I am satisfied with how this season ends.
Nick Rascon has been fantastic for Long Beach State over his career. What makes him the outstanding player that he is?
Nick will redshirt this year. He has had an interesting few years of instability with transferring and returning. He needs time to get settled and in his comfort zone. Nick is an extraordinary competitor. His strength is in his grit as a competitor. That being said, this year will be difficult for him to sit on the side and have to watch. I believe it will be a good experience for him to learn how to contribute to the group from the sidelines. We look forward to his return next season.
Dan Matulis was named an All-American last fall and he returns for your 49ers. What makes him the incredible player that he is?
Dan will also be redshirting this season. He had shoulder surgery in February. I want him to have a full recovery. I think Dan has a long career ahead of him and I want to nurture that possibility. Dan is from Ohio. It has always been a race for Dan to catch up to the kids who were playing a hundred games a year in HS and club. Dan was raw clay in a 6'11 left handed frame. A coach's dream if you will. He has been passed up by the youth and junior teams. I believe this was a mistake. He has finally caught up and he will surpass others in his position. Last year, he was the only All-American center on the second team. There were no centers on the first team. I think that is a huge problem for our country and the style of play that is popular in collegiate water polo. Sorry to get off topic. What makes Dan incredible? He is a 6'11 left hander who has an honest, hard working love for the game.
Your women's team is coming off an outstanding spring that saw your 49ers win twenty-five games and secure a top three finish in the Big West. Can you tell us about that strong season and what you are expecting this spring from them?
Our women's team always had some extenuating circumstance concerning personnel. We were never deep enough to sustain when someone was injured or left. Last year was a result of long term investments paying off. The women's season is long. The key to last year was keeping the waters calm and steady emotionally. Simple things can tend to derail a fragile group. Last year's group was not so fragile. We are satisfied with last year's finish, but going after conference rival UCI is always the target. We are hosting the Big West tournament this year and expectations have changed.
With that our interview ended. I have to say that I think redshirting Rascon and Matulis is brilliant. I love the idea of gearing up for a special season. With the amount of talent that will be graduating this fall from other programs, Long Beach State has a chance to be special in 2014