Feb. 1, 2007
The 2007 Bruins are looking to bring home their third championship in three years. They have won the last two NCAA championships, amassing a 62-4 record, including a 40-game inter-season winning streak. The 2005 team was arguably the best women's water polo team ever, finishing the season with a perfect 33-0 record. Last year's team fought through a tough conference schedule to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and ultimately bring home the championship.
This year, the Bruins have a smaller roster than any other season, but they are certainly capable of winning a third championship in three years because of the stellar talent returning, including first team All-Americans Kelly Rulon and Emily Feher. The Bruins have the experience to win the championship as well. Fifteen of the seventeen players have won at least one championship, and ten of them have won at least two.
With this collection of talent and experience, the Bruins are poised to capture their third NCAA Championship in a row. The 2007 squad begins the season ranked second in the country by the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
The Bruins return will return two experienced center forwards in Kacy Kunkel and Brittany Rowe. While the two play differently, they complement each other very well. "Kacy is coming off a great year. She does a great job of holding position down low and really forcing defenses to adjust to how she is playing. Brittany is very skilled and very difficult to guard. She is exceptionally effective because of her ability to shoot with both hands."
Although the Bruins will look to mix up their defenders in order to match up with opposing teams, the two primary defenders will be Jillian Kraus and Molly Cahill. "Both have a lot of experience playing that position last year. They are ultimate competitors that take a lot of pride in how they defend. We are certainly capable at defending anyone in the country."
The Bruins are loaded with spectacular players at this position. "Gabrielle Domanic played the second half of the last season as well or better than any left-hander in the country. She's a very dynamic and explosive player. Anne Belden received a lot of playing time last year as a freshman, and she is only going to get batter. She's a lot more physical this year, which will help her on both sides of the ball. We're also excited to welcome back Jenna Murphy, who has sat out two years with an injury. Although she's had two seasons off, she's had a great off-season."
The Bruins return a handful of extremely talented drivers, including last year's Player of the Year, Kelly Rulon. Kelly is one of the greatest collegiate water polo players ever. "She has it all; she is a tremendous leader and captain, an incredible talent, she's fast, she's a great scorer, and a great defender. One of the most important things for her is to continue to be a great team leader." Courtney Mathewson enters this season with a lot more confidence is her ability to perform in tough situations. "She's very quick, has good speed, shoots the ball well, and is a great defensive player. She is also very versatile." Tanya Gandy and Katie Rulon will look to build off of their excellent freshman year performance. "Both Katie and Tanya are very talented and have plenty of experience."
Senior Emily Feher will be the primary goalie this year. She has been one of the top goalies in the nation during her tenure at UCLA. "She will be one of the best goalkeepers in the country this year, if not the best. She's more than just a goalkeeper. Emily is a great team leader, a great passer, and very knowledgeable. It is sad to think that this is her last year." Brittany Fullen is playing with a lot of confidence as well. She has all the physical attributes to be a great goalie. "We have a great tandem in the goal, which is the backbone of the defense."
Even though the Bruins are not very deep, they are certainly just as talented as ever. Krikorian said of the upcoming season: This is the smallest roster a water polo team has ever had at UCLA. This team's strengths are its intensity, confidence, leadership, and speed. Those components will be integral to our success. The goal for every team is to win the conference and national championship. The most important thing for us is to stay hungry. We don't want to get into the mindset that we are defending the championship, but rather attacking another one. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to coach this team."