News and Events
Waves Water Polo: All Eyes on the Prize
For college athletes, each season brings a new chance for victory and another shot at the NCAA Championships. The Pepperdine men's water polo team is no exception.
Currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, the Waves recently defeated No. 6 Long Beach and No. 10 cross-town rival Loyola Marymount to take fifth place at the SoCal Tournament.
Now gearing up for more tough competition, the team remains focused on their championship goal. In fact, they began looking ahead to the 2007-08 season before the previous one even began.
Last season, the Waves redshirted their top four players to save a year of eligibility and to prepare for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Juniors Grant Miller, Matt Digges, Adam Hewko, and Matt MacDonnell all return to action this year. Back in 2005, the quartet comprised four of the top five scorers on the team. Hewko and Miller scored 43 goals apiece, while Digges had 29 and MacDonell added 14.
"The reason we redshirted four players last year is to hopefully win national championships the next two years," explains head coach Jack Kocur. "Our redshirts are very hungry to play because they haven't played in a game for a year. When you redshirt, you get to know who you are and what you want more."
Kocur takes over as the fulltime head coach this year after serving as interim coach in 2006 and an assistant coach from 2002 to 2005. A Pepperdine graduate, Kocur was a first team All-American during the Waves' 1997 NCAA championship season. He was also member of the U.S. National Team for six years and competed in more than 125 international games.
Assistant coach William Rodriguez, also a Pepperdine graduate and a former water polo player, returns for his second season. Terry Schroeder, who took a year off from head coaching duties to work with the U.S. National Team, will continue on as the USA's head coach as the team prepares for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Last year the roster-shortened Waves went 13-17 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, but still finished the season ranked No. 10 nationally. The squad ranked No. 6 in this season's national preseason poll, and has since advanced to No. 5.
"Pepperdine has had a reputation of inconsistency, but a program that would sometimes put it together and win," says Kocur. "Our goal this year is to prove that wrong and win it all. We want to go out there and win every game to prove we are consistent. Consistency is our motto this year."
With attacker Nick Corjon listed as the only senior on the roster this year, the Waves' hope is to get Corjon a national championship ring. He scored 22 goals last season.
Among other strong players are two who participated with U.S. National Teams this past summer: Hewko, an attacker who helped the full U.S. National Team qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and sophomore attacker JP MacDonell. MacDonell was the leading scorer for the Waves last season with 60 goals and played with the Junior National Team at Junior Worlds.
Kocur is excited about his younger players, including a group of sophomores that now have some experience under their belts. In addition to JP MacDonell, they include utility Brett Auer, center Clayton Snyder, and goalkeeper Travis Stachowski. Auer scored 26 goals, while Snyder had 25 in 2006. Stachowski won the starting job at goalie as a freshman.
The depth and experience gives Pepperdine a different look in 2007. Says Stachowski: "The energy I have seen on this team is probably one of the best all around energy I have experienced on a team before. The guys are more then willing to take constructive criticism, along with really backing each other up no matter what the situation is."
It's the kind of support that could lead them straight to the national championships.
Cheer on the Waves at their remaining home matches this season:
Concordia: Saturday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m.
UC San Diego: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara: Sunday, Nov. 18, 1 p.m.
All matches will take place in Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool on Pepperdine's Malibu campus.
For all of the latest news, results, and schedule information, please visit the team's Web site.
With reporting by Pepperdine Sports Information