Aug. 18, 2005
Head Coach Adam Krikorian answers questions surrounding his 2005 men's water polo team. He talks about the expectations of defending a national title, the losses of all seven starters from a year ago, the chemistry of this year's squad and how this season's schedule will affect the race for another NCAA championship.
UCLA begins its 2005 season at the BYU-Hawaii Tournament on September 3. Team members are scheduled to report for the first day of practice on August 18.
Coming off a national title, what are the expectations heading into this season?
Adam Krikorian: Whether you're coming off a championship or not, the expectations here always remain the same - to try to win a championship and in our case it's to try to win another championship. And that's the beauty of being a part of this program because with those expectations come a certain level of confidence that on any given year we can get it done. And that's very exciting.
How does the loss of all of last year's starters affect this season's team?
AK: The loss of those seven starters is going to be huge. We're not going to be able to replace those guys. We're certainly going to miss their talent and abilities, but more importantly - at least early on, we're going to miss their intelligence and their leadership. We're going to have guys on this year's team that are very talented and have the ability to fill those holes but at the same time they make lack a little bit of experience than last year's seniors had. It's just going to be a different team. We're not going to be able to replace a guy like Brett Ormsby - you can't replace a guy who was the Player of the Year and an Olympian. We're not going to have any of the big names on this year's team. It's really just going to be a team made up of some very solid players.
This team will be as strong of a unit and will play as a team as well as any team that's every played here.
Head Coach Adam Krikorian
Okay - So without last year's seniors, who are going to be your leaders now ?
AK: Certainly our two seniors, David Pietsch and John Blanchette have the most experience. They've been around the longest and they know what it means to be a UCLA Water Polo player and how we want to play the game. They're going to provide a lot of leadership as will a lot of our other returners who saw action last year like Chris Pulido, Logan Powell, Thomas Foley and Grant Zider. Similar to last year's senior class, those guys are going to have to join together to provide the leadership that this team needs.
All-American goalkeeper Joe Axelrad has graduated. Who will replace him in front of the net?
AK: I think we have three capable goalies that are all very talented but yet are all very different in their own way. Will Didinger, who has been our backup goalie the last two years, is an excellent and athletic goalie as well as being a great passer and a vocal leader. Matt Kellogg, who was our third-string goalkeeper last year, has had a great off-season. He's very explosive in the goal and has a lot of natural talent. And then there's Chay Lapin, one of the best goalies in the country coming in from last year's recruiting class. He's got a lot of talent but maybe just lacks a little experience and confidence. It's going to be a great battle between those three and the competition is going to be excellent. I think that competition is going to ultimately get the most out of them and I am going to have the utmost confidence in whoever we have in front of the net.
There are new members of the coaching staff and a large roster turnover this season. How will that affect your team chemistry?
AK: Even with the losses of all the seniors, I really believe the chemistry within this year's team will be our strongest asset. Coaching them during the off-season and during the summertime, I saw them gel and come together more so than I ever anticipated or expected. As great as Ormsby was, sometimes without that superstar it's easy to create a sense of camaraderie between a team. This team will be as strong of a unit and will play as a team as well as any team that's every played here.
This year's schedule features some different teams and tournaments. What role will that play in UCLA's road to the title in 2005?
AK: This team is talented enough and hungry enough to win another championship. As we look at the schedule, the key is going to be to play at a consistent level throughout the season. As we all know, the most difficult thing about winning a championship is getting to the Final Four and you can only do that by winning your conference tournament or by simply playing great water polo all year. Looking at the schedule, we're going to face a lot of great teams - the playing field this year is very level. Pepperdine, Cal, UC San Diego, Stanford, Long Beach State and USC are all going to be very competitive. We're going to have to be at the top of our game in order to beat those schools every week.