Feb. 10, 2002
After a spectacular season, claiming the inaugural NCAA women's water polo title and their second consecutive national title, Coach Adam Krikorian's Bruins return with a solid core group of players. UCLA will miss Coralie Simmons, the NCAA Tournament MVP and leading Bruin scorer, and Kristin Guerin. Joining the Bruin squad this season will be true freshman Amber Stachowski, a Junior National team member.
"Our strengths are going to be at defense, our speed and our counter-attack," said Krikorian. "I think that we have the possibility and the personnel to make it extremely difficult for teams to score on us. Whenever you do that and play good defense you have a great chance to win games."
Anchoring the center position this season will be senior Kelly Heuchan, junior Ashley Stachowski, sophomore Natalie Golda and senior Eleanor Murphy. "We don't necessarily have a star or a best player at this position," said Krikorian. "We have a variety of people who can fill this position and can do a very good job at it. We are deep at the center position and have a lot of balance."
Heuchan, the second leading scorer on the 2001 team, will fill a leadership role both in and out of the pool, also serving as team captain. "Heuchan provides a wealth of knowledge and a tremendous amount of leadership for this team," said Krikorian. "She's extremely crafty at the center position and is very good on the move. She is a very active player in two-meters."
Junior Ashley Stachowski will also play a pivotal role at the center position. In December, she competed for the US Junior National team and helped lead them to their first FINA Junior World Championship title. "Like Heuchan, she is crafty and has a lot of natural born skills," said Krikorian. "Ashley is probably the best passer on the team at two meters. And, with her passing skill, she is very good at distributing the ball."
Sophomore Natalie Golda will come off the bench for the Bruins. According to Krikorian, Golda provides a tremendous amount of strength and aggressiveness at center, providing a different look than Heuchan and Stachowski. "In addition to the different look at two meters, Natalie is a huge threat from the perimeter with her outside shooting. She's one of the best shooters on the team and, probably, one of the best shooters in the nation this year."
Rounding out the center position is senior Eleanor Murphy. "Eleanor is a huge inspirational leader for us and we will look to her to be a creative presence at the center position," said Krikorian.
The center defender position has been a strength of the UCLA women's water polo program since its inception in 1995. "Once again, it will be a huge strength for this team," said Krikorian. "In my opinion, we have three of the best center defenders in the nation in Robin Beuregard, Jenny Lamb and Amber Stachowski, and possibly two of the best in the world."
Beuregard, who will enter the 2002 season after off-season elbow surgery, is considered one of the best defenders in the world. An important task for Beuregard this season will be staying healthy. "She gutted through last season with a tremendous amount of injuries and performed incredibly for us in the NCAA's, especially in the final game," said Krikorian. "She is extremely strong and physical. She will dominate the team at the center defender position this year." In addition to her defensive prowess, Beuregard contributes to the Bruin offense as well. "Robin provides us with an incredible threat on the perimeter with her outside shooting."
Senior Jenny Lamb rejoins the Bruins after travelling abroad during the fall quarter. "We expect Jenny to return with the same aggressiveness and strength that she's brought to the team in the past three years."
True freshman Amber Stachowski joins the Bruins after competing with the US Junior National team that won the fourth FINA Junior World Championship in December. "Amber will be looked upon to play bigger than a true freshman and with more maturity than a true freshman typically does," said Krikorian. "She's coming off of playing with the US Junior National team. She is extremely quick and tough to get position on." Stachowski will be looked upon in an offensive capacity as well as a defensive one. "We will also look to her to create on the offensive side. Besides her defensive skills, she has a tremendous amount of speed to create things off the counterattack and can do a variety of things for us offensively."
Rounding out the center defender position is junior Devon McIntyre. "She is an extremely talented individual," said Krikorian. "She will need to step up into a position where she will have to be effective and ready for playing time."
"The great thing with having these players is that they guard two meters in different ways," said Krikorian. "I think that we can keep opposing centers a little bit off guard by rotating them in and out at the center defender position."
At the attacker/playmaker position will be Jessica Lopez, Maureen Flanagan and Thalia Munro. "All three of these girls are going to play an extremely important role on this team," said Krikorian. "They have improved and matured tremendously over the past year. They will be huge parts of this team."
Junior Jessica Lopez is an All-American and one of the most aggressive players on the squad. "Jessica is a very quick swimmer and driver," said Krikorian. "She is effective at creating offensive opportunities for us. In our man-advantage, she plays the wing position for us and does a great job at that."
"Maureen Flanagan is probably our fastest player and biggest threat on the counter-attack," said Krikorian. "She will give us the power to play incredible defensive and really spark our counterattack. Hopefully, she will give us opportunities for shots on goal off of the counterattack."
Sophomore Thalia Munro returns after an incredible freshman campaign. Within the last year, she has improved a great deal to become one of the biggest threats on the squad. "Thalia is an incredibly intense defender," said Krikorian. "She provides a tremendous amount of speed on the counterattack and plays with a type of energy that is unmatched."
At the goalkeeper position, the Bruins will once again look to Jamie Hipp, who enters her junior season. Hipp returns after off-season surgery and one of the keys to this season will be maintaining her health. "It will be important that Jaime gets healthy and stays healthy," said Krikorian. "She has been our starting goalie for the past two championship teams and is the backbone of our defense. She is an incredible individual whose work ethic is unmatched. She has been a leader by example through the work that she does during practices."
Rejoining the Bruins at the goalkeeper position will be junior Christel Smith. "Christel will provide a little competition for Jamie and also solidify us, as far as depth goes, at the goalie position," said Krikorian.
The number one goal of the 2002 Bruin squad is to get healthy. "In order for us to be successful this season, we really need to stay healthy," said Krikorian. "We struggled through injuries last year. Fortunately, we were able to get somewhat healthy by the end of the year."
"It's the same old story. We're here to train hard and, ultimately, we're here to win."