June 30, 2009
By Allison Taylor, UCLABruins.com contributor
Junior Noel Umphrey from the women's water polo team is the featured athlete in UCLABruins.com's Summer Spotlight. In two seasons, Umphrey has won two NCAA Championships. As a freshman in 2008, she played in 13 matches and scored three goals on six attempts, contributing to the Bruins' undefeated season. Last year, she played in 28 games and had four goals, eight steals, two assists and two blocks.
Q: You had shoulder surgery this past year. How did that affect your training/competition this year?
A: It made it difficult, but I worked hard to get my strength back by doing physical therapy three times a week and making sure I didn't get it too sore. Because I had it in the summer, I was ready by the time season came around, so it didn't have too much of an impact on my training.
Q: After finishing your second year at UCLA you already have two NCAA Championships under your belt. Describe your championship experiences.
A: A national championship experience is very hard to describe. It's a feeling that no words can explain. When the game is finished and you have won, all the hard work has made it worth it.
Q: What was the biggest difference between your first and second year here at UCLA?
A: The biggest difference between my first year and second year at UCLA was getting used to the routine. It was difficult for me at first to get used to going to practice not knowing what to expect, then going to class and not knowing what to expect, and going back to practice again. But after going through it all once, my second year became much better because I knew what was coming next. It wasn't a guessing game anymore.
Q: Adam Krikorian, who had been UCLA's head water polo coach since 1999 and led the Bruins to 11 national championships, has stepped down as head coach to coach the US Women's National Team. What are your feelings about the upcoming year with former assistant coach Brandon Brooks leading the team?
A: Adam is an amazing coach, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to play with him. It will be a big change not having him on the pool deck. However, I believe that Brandon will have no problem filling his shoes. He is a great coach as well, and I look forward to playing for him.
Q: What is your fondest memory of Coach Krikorian?
A: My fondest memory of Coach Krikorian is when Katie Estrada scored in the Stanford game at NCAAs, and he just dropped to his knees and threw his hands in the air. From that point on, we were in complete control of the momentum of the game and knew that we could win it.
Q: What is your biggest challenge, mentally or physically in water polo, and how do you overcome it?
A: My biggest challenge is to mentally stay stong. It is difficult, as any athlete at UCLA knows, to come to practice and work hard and find some energy deep inside. In order to improve, you have to be willing to learn and be able to be critiqued not only by your coaches but your teammates as well.
Q: Your father played football in college and went on to play in the NFL. How did you get involved in playing water polo?
A: When I was 11 years old, I was highly involved in soccer. I played year-round on club teams, and I loved it. However, I developed a knee problem that kept me from being able to run. So therefore I could not do any land sports. My brother's friend was in water polo, and his dad told me to try it out. I had never heard of it and could barely swim, but I thought I would try it out. I loved it, and now I'm here at UCLA, a dream come true.
Q: What made you decide to attend UCLA?
A: I decided to attend UCLA because I loved everything about it. I think I loved the fact that you felt like you were joining a family. Everyone was more than willing to help you out in any way, and they provided you with all the tools that you need to succeed. It just felt perfect.
Q: What are you currently majoring in, and what are your career goals??
A: I am currently majoring in Political Science, and my goals are to go to law school, but who knows what will be thrown my way?
Q: What are your interests outside of water polo?
A: Outside of water polo, I love to be with my family. I also love to go to the beach and surf, or head up to the mountains and snowboard. I basically love anything outdoors.
Q: You are very close with your family. Talk a little bit about your home life and some family traditions.
A: Family is very important to me, and I would do anything for them. I live at home with my mom and dad and have one older brother. Growing up, my mom stayed at home, and my dad went to work. My grandparents lived close, and so did my aunts and uncles. A tradition is meeting up with everyone at my grandparents' house in Colorado every summer in the beginning of July. We have a blast fishing, riding ATVs, camping, hiking, and anything else we can get into.
Q: What is the best thing about attending UCLA and being a Bruin?
A: The best thing is when you're walking down the street wearing a UCLA shirt and a random person yells, "Go Bruins!" It makes you feel proud to be where you're at.
Q: If you had to pick one song to live your life by, it would be
A: Forever Young by Rod Stewart
A: Shorty, Nolie
Q: One thing you cannot live without
A: My morals
Q: Favorite meal
Q: Favorite color
Q: Describe yourself in one word.
Q: Favorite professional sports team
A: LA Lakers
Q: Can't miss TV show?
Real World/Road Rules Challenge
Q: If you could trade places with anyone on your team, who would it be and why?
A: No one; I am perfectly happy with who I am.