Feb. 3, 2003
Head Coach Adam Krikorian's 2003 women's water polo team, coming off a 22-4 season and an NCAA runner-up finish will look to its experienced returners and talented freshmen to lead the Bruins to their sixth national championship. Though the Bruins lose second team All-American Kelly Heuchan to graduation along with first team All-American Amber Stachowski and honorable mention All-American Thalia Munro, who will both redshirt to train with the US National Team, they return the core of their lineup including All-Americans Robin Beauregard and Jaime Hipp. Along with the returners, Krikorian expects the Bruin true freshmen to make immediate contributions to the team.
"With the amount of freshmen on this year's team we are gong to put an emphasis on playing good water polo and doing the right things fundamentally," said Krikorian. "If we play smart water polo we have the talent to have another successful year. A key is to blend the experience of the seniors with the enthusiasm and energy of the freshmen."
Stachowski is the lone senior of the group and is expected to play an important role on the team. "Ashley is the best passer I've ever seen out of the center forward position," said Krikorian. "She will be our main threat at the position throughout the year."
Golda is coming off an explosive sophomore campaign that saw her earn All-American Honorable Mention honors and share the team lead in goals with 37. "Natalie has improved tremendously over the past two years. She has proven herself to be an incredible center forward," said Krikorian. "She is a player that can do so many things for us. Over the past year she has proved to be one of the best players in the county."
The lone freshman of the group, Kunkel brings experience from playing with the junior national team. "Kristina is someone who is going to play an important role this year at this position," said Krikorian. "She will be expected to hold down this position when Ashley and Natalie aren't in the game."
Perhaps the Bruins' deepest position, the center defenders consist of two seniors and two freshmen, including All-American and Olympian Robin Beauregard. "We have a wide variety of center defenders at this position with two seniors and two freshmen," said Krikorian. "Our two seniors are very experienced and the two freshmen at the position have the opportunity to learn from Robin and soak up as much information from her as possible."
Beauregard, who will be finishing up her UCLA career, has been a mainstay at center defender since her introduction to the program as a freshman in 1998. Once again the Bruins will look for leadership from their captain. "I've continually said that she is one of the best center defenders in the world, certainly the strongest and best center defender in the country," said Krikorian. "She is absolutely dominating at times. She will be our captain and the team will look to her for experience and teaching."
The other senior of the group, Devon McIntyre will also provide leadership and playing time. "Devon's main job is going to be to defend the most physical position in the water," said Krikorian. "I have a lot of confidence in her to do a nice job. She has the tools to be effective at this position."
True freshman Lauren Heineck brings to the Bruins experience on both the United States Junior National Team and National "B" Team. "Lauren is extremely talented," said Krikorian. "Once she gains more experience and confidence she is going to be one of the best center defenders in the country."
Rounding out the center defender position is true freshman Katie Flanagan. "Katie is someone who has great speed that can be effective on the counterattack," said Krikorian. "She will help us as a reserve and will be able to create offensive opportunities off the counterattack."
At the driver position the Bruins will look to seniors Jessica Lopez and Maureen Flanagan and true freshman Kelly Rulon. Coming off the bench will be redshirt sophomore Kristyn Pulver and senior Mari Joyce.
Lopez will provide a spark for the Bruins on both ends of the pool. "Jessica creates so many things both offensively and defensively with her quickness and aggressiveness," said Krikorian. "She does a nice job of converting 6 on 5 opportunities."
Flanagan will be Lopez's counterpart at the position and will be looked to to provide leadership. "She will be our leader at this position," said Krikorian. "She will be our most effective counterattack player and this is because she is extremely fast and a well-conditioned athlete."
Rulon is another true freshman who will see significant playing time. "Kelly is someone who can create a lot of opportunities for us offensively on the counterattack off the half court offense," said Krikorian. "Though she is only a freshman we are expecting a lot from her."
Senior Mari Joyce will be expected to provide valuable depth and experience for the Bruins. "Mari is an aggressive and fiery player," said Krikorian. "She plays with emotion and passion coming off the bench."
Pulver improved over the course of the 2002 and gives the Bruins another option at the driver position. "Kristyn had a great year last year, especially towards the end," said Krikorian. "She brings strength and competiveness to the position and will help us out at the driver position."
Senior Jaime Hipp will return to the net for the Bruins after being named a second team All-American for the 2002 season. Backing her up will be true freshman Tahlia Kerr who will gain valuable insight from four-year starter Hipp.
Hipp is again coming off surgery but, is healthy and fully expected to continue her dominance in the net where she has posted a career goals against average of 4.36. "Jamie has an incredible work ethic, she is always determined to get better," said Krikorian. "She will always be the leader of our defense and I'm excited for her to have a big year in her senior year."
Kerr will provide valuable depth at the position for the Bruins. "Thalia brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the position," said Krikorian." Tahlia is a great goalie and we are confident in her if we have to go to her in goal."
The 2003 Season
Head Coach Adam Krikorian on the upcoming season: "Our ultimate goal has been and will always be to win a championship. We want to improve as the season progresses and by April be playing our best water polo. This will be a very exciting year because of the talent we have."