One of the nice water polo stories this season has been the success of Chapman University. The Panthers made an appearance in the Water Polo Planet Top 20 last week and sport wins over schools such as Johns Hopkins, Fordham and Concordia along with SCIAC powers Redlands and Pomoma-Pitzer. While they have recently dropped two straight, they are still firmly in the SCIAC mix.
Chapman is led by Eric Ploessel. The former Long Beach State standout took the head coaching reins in 2007 and led them to four consecutive WWPA Tournament appearances as well as a school record fifteen wins in 2012. I sat down to talk Chapman water polo with Coach Ploessel and below is our interview.
Chapman is off to an outstanding start as you have only lost once in conference play and sport nonconference wins over schools like Johns Hopkins and Concordia. What does your team need to do to win the SCIAC and grab a bid into NCAAs?
We have been playing very well lately. This conference is very tough to win. You have to be at your best for each conference game. From top to bottom, any team can win on any given day. What we need to do for our last conference games is try to put us in the best position possible going into the SCIAC tournament. We want to get the best seed possible to better our chances of making that final game.
How excited is your squad with the relatively new NCAA format and knowing you'll perhaps get a crack at an MPSF school in an opening round game?
Every team in our conference was excited when it was announced that the winner of the SCIAC gets a bid into the NCAA tournament. It is a tough match up for any of us to play what would be the third best team in the nation. Whatever team wins the SCIAC wants to go into that play-in game saying we have nothing to lose and we just want to represent the SCIAC conference the best way possible.
Mark Alvarado is a two-time All-American who has been sensational for your team this season. What makes him the incredible player that he is?
He is our best overall player. His strength is his speed. He is not only the fastest player in SCIAC but probably one of the fastest players in the nation. It is tough to match up against speed and that's what makes it difficult to stop him. He is also a great defender. All four years here he has been in the top three on the team in goals, assists, and steals. He fits in great with what we are trying to do with our system of pushing the counter attack and using our defense to get us goals the other way.
Jake Gross has also been outstanding this season. Especially on the defensive end with 64 steals. Can you tell us a little about him and what he brings to your team?
Jake is also a great defender. He will usually guard the other team's center but can also guard the team's best shooter. He really uses his long arms to get him steals. There are many times this season where he can guard two players at the same time and still get the steal because of his position and using his legs and long arms to get steals. He has also made huge improvements on his offense. All four years here he has improved offensively which was a weakness of his when we first got here. He is now one of our best outside shooters on our team.
When I look at your team, I see a really good balance with a lot of guys that can do a little bit of everything. Can you discuss that balance with us?
Any given game we could have a different leading scorer. You just mentioned our top two scorers but each starter has been a leading scorer in at least one game this season. We really emphasize using our speed and counter to get us goals. When the entire team counters any person in the pool can score for us. When we have been at our best this season we have used our defense and counter to get the wins.
With that our interview ended. The SCIAC is a fun conference with great parity as Whittier, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Redlands, Pomona-Pitzer, Cal Lutheran and Chapman are all capable of beating each other. We are looking forward to SCIAC Championships which kick off on November 21