Feb. 7, 2001
The present has never looked better for the UCLA Bruins and head coach Adam Krikorian. The Bruins enter 2001 returning the nucleus of a squad that went 30-5 and captured the school's fourth national championship a year ago. With the return of senior Coralie Simmons and sophomore Robin Beauregard, who both redshirted the past two seasons to play for the US National team, the Bruins will be well in the hunt for their fifth championship in six years.
"Our goal will always be to win the national championship," says Krikorian. "Coming to UCLA, that's a given, and that comes with being a part of the special program that we have."
The 2001 women's water polo season will be the first as an official NCAA sport. Prior to 1995, women's water polo was considered only a club sport. Since then, the women have been competing each year for the National Collegiate Championship. Due to the rising popularity of the sport on the college campus, the NCAA has finally accepted women's water polo as a varsity sport and thus, the Bruins will be competing for the first ever women's water polo NCAA championship.
Aside from their championship aspirations, the Bruins have set other goals for the 2001 campaign. "We'd like to play well as a team and get better as the season progresses and really get the most out of our ability," says Krikorian.
Ability is something the Bruins will not lack during the 2001 season, as they will boast possibly their most talent-laden squad ever. "I think we have a tremendous amount of talent - maybe the most talent we've ever had here," adds Krikorian. "It's going to be difficult to keep everybody happy and working as a team. That's the main goal outside winning the championship."
Senior captain and leader Coralie Simmons makes her highly-anticipated return back to the UCLA campus. After competing with the U.S. National team for the past two seasons and returning from the Olympic Games with a silver medal last summer, Simmons figures to be the premier player in women's water polo this season. "Along with all the accolades Coralie has (two-time player of the year, three-time first-team All-American) is the leadership and work ethic she brings to the table," says Krikorian. "She has an incredible sense of competitiveness, desire and dedication. She is one of the best players in the nation this year, and in my opinion, she's one of the best players in the world."
The Bruins will also return 2000 National Player of the Year Elaine Zivich for her junior season. "Elaine Zivich is an extremely strong player and will be extremely difficult to guard," says Krikorian, "She has one of the hardest outside shots there is in the nation." Offensively, the Bruins have a plethora of talent to play in the two-meter offense. UCLA figures to be led by sophomore Robin Beauregard and junior Kelly Heuchan in the two-meter game. Beauregard returns after two seasons on the National Team and looks to add to her total of 48 goals from her freshman year. With her recent Olympic experience, Beauregard looks to contribute skill and leadership to the Bruin's offense. Heuchan led the Bruins in goals last season and was awarded with second team All-America honors. Says Krikorian, "Heuchan brings a wealth of experience on the International level, which will help collegiately. She's an excellent passer and a very smart player."
Senior Kristin Guerin figures to play an integral role as a playmaker on the 2001 Bruin squad. The southpaw has been on two championship teams and will be very important on the Bruin's six-on-five offense and counterattack.
Sophomore Jessica Lopez, who started as a freshman last season, possesses great speed and should be vital on the counterattack. Offensively, she can create scoring chances for herself and others. "With her speed and ability to drive and get open, Jessica can create a lot offensively," says Krikorian.
Sophomore Maureen Flanagan, one of the fastest players on the UCLA team, looks to continue her improvement as a UCLA attacker this year. Flanagan will be looked upon offensively to use her speed to lead the UCLA counterattack.
Sophomore Jaime Hipp will maintain the goalie position in 2001. As a freshman, Hipp was selected as a third-team All-American and excelled in the National Finals, holding the opposition to a total of 11 goals in four games. "Jaime kept improving throughout the season and will continue to grow with more experience this year," says Krikorian. "She has a tremendous desire to be successful as an individual and as a team, and I look forward to having her back in goal for 2001."
Also returning from last year will be three key defenders, including junior star Jenny Lamb. "She was probably one of the best defenders in the country last year," says Krikorian. "Jenny's a constant. We always know what we're going to get out of her - incredible defense." Joining Lamb on defense will be sophomores Devon McIntyre and Ashley Stachowski. Stachowski provides tremendous size and length and plays with a great deal of energy and stamina that is rarely matched. McIntyre did not see much playing time last season but figures to be play a part in the defense this year.
Freshman Thalia Munro should see significant playing time as one of the top recruits in the nation last year. "Thalia has size to be a two-meter defender, but her main position for us will probably be as a playmaker," says Krikorian. "She has great speed to help lead the counterattack, she plays great defense and will contribute on both sides of the ball." A second freshman expected to contribute is another top recruit, Natalie Golda, whose sheer size and strength will make her an important part of the two-meter offense. She should only improve as she gains more experience on the collegiate level.
With the returning talent from last year's championship team, the return of two stars from the US National Team, and the addition of some of the top recruits in the nation, the 2001 Bruins will have championship aspirations once again.