When you think about college water polo and who might contend for an NCAA title, there is always a first set of teams whose rosters you immediately check. UCLA has forever been one of those squads and this year is no exception. The Bruins return perhaps the most potent squad in the country and are backed by a goalie who might be the nation's best. On paper, there is no doubt that this could be the year they break their crosstown rival's stranglehold on the NCAA belt.
UCLA is led by Head Coach Adam Wright. Many will remember Wright from his playing days as he was an integral piece of two U.S. Olympic teams which includes our 2008 Silver medal winning squad. A graduate of UCLA, he also won two NCAA titles as a player for the Bruins. As a coach, he has led UCLA to a 122-27 record which includes three NCAA title game appearances and an MPSF Coach of the Year award. I sat down with Coach Wright to discuss his team. Below is our interview.
UCLA is returning a loaded squad that will compete for an NCAA title. What does your team need to do to bring home the championship?
We have senior core of players that have gained a lot of experience over the last three years. Last season we also had several freshmen who contributed to our team and gained valuable experience throughout the season. With that said we must continue to grow as a group and add the new pieces from this past years recruiting class in order to put ourselves in a position to be successful. Water polo is very challenging both physically and mentally and it will be critical for us to not only get ourselves into the best physical shape we possibly can but also get ourselves tactically onto the same page in a short amount of time.
You have an outstanding senior class headlined by Paul Reynolds and Cristiano Mirarchi. Can you tell us a little about this group and what you are expecting from them this fall?
We have our largest senior class returning this season in my five years as the head coach. This group has played in a lot of big games and we are counting on them to use their experiences to lead the rest of our team. This group has great motivation heading into their senior season and I believe their leadership will be a critical component for our team.
Danny McClintick was an All-American in 2013 who I thought really made your team go. What makes him the special player that he is?
Danny McClintick is a very smart water polo player which gives him the ability to put himself into positions to help our team be successful.
MPSF Newcomer of the Year Garrett Danner was outstanding in the cage for the Bruins. Can you tell us about his game between the pipes?
Garrett Danner had an excellent freshmen season and has continued to work hard in the offseason to improve his game in the goal. Garrett has the ability to take over games when needed most and this is a very unique ability that not all goalies have. We also have two very solid back up senior goalies in Stephen White and James Hartshorne.
Your team is bringing in a very talented recruiting class. What are you expecting from these newcomers?
We are bringing in a very small class to our team this season but we believe they all have the ability to impact our team right away both in practice and in the games. We expect our new guys to challenge the returning players from the very first day. Also it will be important for them to immerse themselves into our system and quickly get an understanding of how we play.
With that our interview ended. There are a number of teams that will be in the hunt for the NCAA crown as there seems to be a nice amount of parity at the top this season. UCLA will be in the mix as they have a great blend of talent and experience returning. Look out for the Bruins in December.