Jan. 25, 2005
The 2005 UCLA women's water team will be full of talent on many levels, receiving one of the best recruiting classes in the nation as well as returning four players from the Olympic team who red-shirted last season. Coming off a 22-5 record in 2004, this year's team looks to improve and bring back the NCAA title to UCLA. The lone senior on the team is Natalie Golda and her presence and leadership will be important for all the players, especially the eight freshmen.
Adam Krikorian said of this year, "This team is probably going to be the most talented team that we have ever had and it certainly will be the deepest. Our strengths are going to be our talent and our phenomenal team speed. It is an interesting group because out of the 23 people total on the team, over half of them were not on the team last year. On paper, the talent is incredible, but teams aren't created by talent. The key for us this year is playing together."
At the center forward position this season will be sophomores Kacy Kunkel and Brittney Bowlus and freshman Brittany Rowe. The two sophomores both received significant amounts of playing time last season and are expected to be key players this year.
"Kacy and Brittney stepped into a real tough situation as true freshmen and played great last year. They gained a tremendous amount of experience that will help them this year," said Krikorian. "Kacy is very strong. She provides us with a lot of strength at that position. Brittney also is strong but has a little bit more speed and can be effective in other ways."
Joining the sophomores will be Rowe, who is ambidextrous and can shoot with either hand, making her a deadly weapon. Krikorian said of Brittany, "Brittany Rowe is a very talented kid who, when she gains confidence, will be a big weapon for us. Her unique shooting ability will help her at center forward and on the perimeter throughout her career at UCLA."
Heineck proved herself to be a strong defensive force last season. "I would consider Lauren to be one of the best defenders in the country," said Krikorian. "She has really been able to dominate in her first two years and I expect her to do so again this season."
Flanagan also gained much experience last year and will contribute to the team. According to coach Krikorian, "She has great leg strength and can at times physically out-muscle her opponents in the center defender position."
A utility player is an extremely versatile water polo player who can play the center forward, center defender, or driver position. Senior Natalie Golda and juniors Thalia Munro, Amber Stachowski, and Kristina Kunkel fill this role as some of the most talented players on the team. Golda is the only senior on the roster and has Olympic and national team experience.
Krikorian said, "Overall, she is probably the best defender in the country in terms of the whole package. She can use that strength to be successful at either the defender position or the center position, but Natalie's big strength and deadliest weapon is her perimeter shot. We are going to rely on that to be very aggressive offensively."
Krikorian feels that Munro will be his fastest player and best defender. "She is a great perimeter defender as well as a great center defender. She can also be creative and post up on the offensive side. Overall she is probably the best defender in the country."
Stachowski and Kunkel are also extremely talented players both on the offensive and defensive side. "They are feisty, creative, quick, and mobile in the water," said Krikorian. Kristina was the leading scorer for the team last season with 44 goals.
The driver position will have the most depth with many players competing for time. The most talented driver is sophomore Kelly Rulon, who played on the Olympic team last year. The Bruins will depend on her leadership to have an outstanding season. Krikorian said of Kelly: "She is a great leader, very knowledgeable, has a very keen sense of the game, something that can't be taught. We are going to rely on Kelly to help us in all areas of the game."
For the first time in a while, the team will have two left-handers. Freshman Gabrielle Domanic, who was an alternate on the Olympic team, and sophomore Jenna Murphy will give this unique strength to the Bruin team.
"Both girls have great vision playing on the right side of the pool. They will provide us with left handed threats on the right side of the pool and both will be very important on 6-5 situations," said coach Krikorian.
"Katherine and Molly have some unique offensive abilities and gained a lot of experience last year," said Krikorian. "Jillian and Monique will be true freshmen and they are two of the fastest players in the country. They will help us with their speed and will only improve as the season goes on."
Last season as a freshman, Emily started and played most of the games, allowing 4.66 goals per game. She had 169 saves on the season. Tahlia had a 4.00 goals against average and had 72 saves for the season. They are essential to UCLA's success this season.
"Emily and Tahlia are both knowledgeable and have great work ethics," said Krikorian. "Both do a nice job of passing and are really solid in all areas of the game."
THE 2005 SEASON
Krikorian on the upcoming season: "We have so many newcomers that the most important thing is to get to know each other, so that the girls understand each others' tendencies and personalities. This ultimately will bring our team and their talent together to work as one. As we gain experience, we will certainly improve. Our goal is to play the best water polo possible when April and May come. We have our eyes focused on a national championship, but there are so many other essentials that we need to get done first."