Season Preview: A Look At The WWPA
Aug. 31, 2009
By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com
6-5. That was the final score of last season’s heartbreaking loss to Stanford in the Final Four. Do not be surprised if the memory of that game serves as motivation for a team that will wreak havoc on the national scene this season. With six Final Four appearances over the past eight years, Loyola Marymount is the class of the WWPA. Most of the credit for this should go to their tremendous head coach John Loughran who has breathed success since arriving from Queens College. We got a chance to speak with him about this year’s team and below is our interview.
Andy Stevens is coming off a fall in which he was WWPA Player of the Year, WWPA Tournament MVP, first-team All-NCAA Tournament and an All-American. To top that off, he trained with the United States National Team during the spring and summer and competed in the World University Games. As great as he is in every game he plays in, he seems to have a Kobe Bryant like knack for playing exceptional in big games. Can you tell us about him and what makes him the world-class player that he is?
Andy has an excellent ability to work well in the flow of the game. He is very aware of what the opposing team’s offense is doing on each possession and he reads them well. He also has the ability to read shooters very well and this makes him a very good goalie when facing a shooter one on one. Andy has great natural athletic ability and his work ethic has improved in the last couple of years, so has his performance.
Mentally, Andy is very tough and has a tremendous amount of confidence in big games. He has been at his best at conference championships and at NCAA Championships. If Andy can keep improving on his weaknesses and can be consistent in his work habits and performance, I believe he can make an impact on the next level and be a very good National Team player.
All-American Tibor Forai and WWPA Newcomer of the Year Edgaras Asajavicius are both highly regarded field players that had tremendous seasons last fall. What are you expecting from both players this campaign and what do you think makes each of them lethal offensively?
We are looking forward to having both Tibor and Edgaras back for this season. Both are excellent all-around players and they will help run our offense. I look for Edgaras to be much improved from last year as most international players take a year to adjust to the NCAA game.
They will both draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses and will both be an important part of our six on five which was very successful last season. Both Edgaras and Tibor have an excellent ability to score and set up their teammates on the power play.
Both players have a lot of experience which helps them understand the offense we are running and both are great shooters that have the ability to score at different positions. They have very high water polo IQ's which enables them to find the weaknesses in the opposing teams defenses.
Despite the graduations of Tim Hummel, Tim Heafner, Julien Lormant and Mark Milovic, Loyola Marymount has to be considered both the favorites in the WWPA and a contender to be playing in the NCAA Championship game on Sunday afternoon in December. What does your team have to do to make this season a special one?
Losing five seniors from last season has been an adjustment for us. That senior class had a tremendous amount of leadership and chemistry, which was a major factor in our success last season. We will need this year’s team to fill the roles of the players we lost and we will definitely need this year’s upperclassmen to step in and assume leadership roles. This will be a key to our success. This offseason our younger players have grown in their roles and I think we are ready to begin where we left off last year. We have seen great development this summer and there have been players on this team that have been waiting for their opportunity to show what they can do. For us to have a special season, we have to remain committed to getting better every day in practice and growing as players and as a team. The WWPA will have a lot of parity this season and for us to repeat as WWPA Champions we are going to have to improve in many areas and I think this team is up to the challenge.
Loyola Marymount’s biggest challenger in the WWPA is a name that will surprise many. In fact, an outstanding argument can be made that the last time a small school had this much talent, it was when John Loughran and then Pedro DeLima were patrolling the sidelines at Queens. Justin Pudwill is an exceptional young coach and he has transformed Whittier into being a contender in the SCIAC and WWPA.
Last year’s recruiting class was exceptional as juco transfer Casey Regehr was not just an All-American, but a program changer. In Regehr, Whittier has the second best goalie in the WWPA. As good as last year’s class was, this one is better. Whittier brought in fifteen players including six transfers. The headliners are Jordan Van Norman, Uriel Villa and Alex Perry. Van Norman is a former United States Junior National team player who began his career at USC and scored twenty-two goals as a freshman. After leaving USC, Van Norman ended up Grossmont Junior College where he was an All-American. The moment Van Norman arrives at Whittier; he becomes one of the top two-meter players in the country. Villa is transferring from Pepperdine where he scored ten goals as a frosh. A three-time high school All-American, Villa is a lethal perimeter player. Alex Perry caps off this explosive trio as he was a first-team All-American at Mercyhurst College and Grossmont Junior College before that. He has one year of eligibility remaining but adding him gives the Poets a devastating outside shooter.
UC San Diego, Santa Clara, UC Davis and Air Force are traditional powers in the WWPA. The Tritons of UC San Diego lose two important players in Adnan Jerkovic and A.J. Kotanjian and their presence will be sorely missed. However, Coach Denny Harper is the most important cog in the Triton engine and he will be back for his thirtieth campaign. Harper’s team is a definite threat to win the WWPA as they return three outstanding players in Daniel Garcia, Steven Donahoe and goalie David Morton. Santa Clara will be a top-tier club in the WWPA as they are returning All-American Jack Wall, forty-five goal scorer Liam Farrell and WWPA All-Freshman team member James Case. UC-Davis will be rebuilding this season; however in junior hole set Aaron Salit they have an All-American caliber performer. Another hole set poised to make an impact is Alex Churnside of Air Force. Churnside is an important cog of a dark horse Falcons team that returns two All-Conference performers with Jack Hines being the other.