Nov. 1, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


November is upon us which means the stakes are getting higher with each week of water polo action. Postseason play kicks off next week with the CWPA Northern and Southern Division Championships and by the end of this month the only words on the mind of any water polo fan will be NCAA Final Four”. The next five weeks are when reputations are built and championships are won. With that as a backdrop, we will discuss this past weeks critical action and more.

This Wednesday, we stopped by the beautifully manicured Rose Hill campus in the Bronx to watch an always riveting Fordham-Iona rivalry tilt. In what was an intense affair, Fordham won their third on the trot with the final score being 13-10. A day after that contest, I sat down with Head Coach and United States Water Polo Hall of Famer Bill Harris to discuss his Rams. Below is our interview.

Last season, Fordham was the regular season co-champions in the Northern Division. While the Rams have already ceded the regular season crown to St. Francis, your team still has the postseason to look forward to. What does Fordham need to do to enjoy success at Northerns and possibly Easterns?

This season the competition has been a lot more challenging. With St. Francis back in the mix along with Brown, MIT and the rest of the Northern Conference the path to the Easterns is a tough one. We need to play a better defensive game to advance, we have a lot of weapons on offense but we need to limit the oppositions man-up opportunities. If we can do that we have a good chance to go to the Easterns and then give it our best shot against the strongest teams in the East.

I think Ali Arat is the best player I have personally ever watched play for the Rams. Can you tell us about the Turkish National team performer and what makes him the outstanding player that he is?

Ali is indeed a fine player and a true student-athlete with a GPA of 3.9 at Fordham Grad School as he closes out his career here at Fordham and earns his MBA degree. Ali has a passion for the sport and loves water polo. He trains hard at practice and gives it his all in every game. Ali has the size (at 66”) speed, and the work ethic to compete with the best players in our sport, he is a pleasure to coach. If you were a bit closer to my age you would have enjoyed watching some exceptional past players for the Rams, Ned Kelly and Chris Judge are the two that come to mind immediately. Both had great careers with NYAC after graduating from Fordham and Ali will play for NYAC after leaving our program.

Mikey Edwards and Ryan Hultman are both returning All-North performers from last fall. What makes them so effective in the water?

Edwards and Hultman are both big and strong athletes. Mikey is tough to stop at the two-meter spot with an exceptional reach and good hands. He was a great addition to our program for the last two seasons. Ryan Hultman played at Corona del Mar High School and is one of the best players I have worked with at putting the ball in the net. He is a leader, who is aggressive and confident and has had a great four years here at Fordham.

Trevor, please allow me a moment to give some thanks. I have coached this team for the last seven years. As you saw at last nights game against Iona we will lose nine athletes to graduation who have helped Fordham become a respected team in the CWPA. This has occurred because of the increase in support from the Fordham Administration, Fordham Athletics, Fordham Admissions, our dedicated Alums and especially the student-athletes (and their parents) who chose to play far from home, on a team that had struggled against the top teams in the East for the past several seasons. Thanks to all of the individuals and the University who have helped to revitalize our program. I am fortunate and grateful for their support.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The game of the weekend was between second-ranked USC and seventh-ranked Pacific as the Trojans needed a late Peter Kurzeka goal to pull out a 9-8 victory. For USC, a win is a win and they will take it as they are still trying to close in on a top-three seed for Novembers MPSF Tournament. Pacific followed up their good performance with another game effort on Sunday against fifth-ranked UC-Irvine. Pacific was down 10-9 late in that contest before succumbing 12-9. The Tigers are a good team on the verge of taking down a top five squad and that is evidenced by their recent performances against USC, UCLA and UC-Irvine.

Top-ranked California has two losses on the season and they have now avenged them both. California used a 6-1 second quarter to blow open their Saturday contest with UC-Irvine. In what might be the most dominant performance of the season, California led a good UC-Irvine team at Anteater pool by as much as eleven goals in winning 18-9. Ivan Rackov scored six goals while Zach White added four in the Golden Bear victory. On Sunday, Cal trounced tenth-ranked Pepperdine 18-7 to move to 15-2 overall and 4-0 in MPSF play. White and Luka Saponjic each scored four times in the victory.

Third-ranked UCLA cruised past three ranked opponents this weekend. They also knocked off twelfth-ranked UC-San Diego and nineteenth-ranked Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday by a combined score of 21-8. Cristiano Mirarchi had four goals against the Tritons while Ben Hohl led the Bruins with four goals against the Sagehens. UCLA followed up those wins with an 11-5 conference victory over eighth-ranked Long Beach State on Sunday. Hohl and Griffin White each had a hat trick in the Bruin triumph.

In other West Coast action, Pepperdine upset eighth-ranked Long Beach State 9-8 in a Friday night clash to garner their first conference win. This victory was crucial as only eight teams qualify for the MPSF Tournament and these two teams are the likely eighth and ninth place finishers in that conference. Fourth-ranked Stanford was also in action and they cruised past eleventh-ranked Santa Clara in their only action last week behind four goals each from Jeffrey Schwimer and Jacob Smith.

Player of the Week

Ivan Rackov, California, Jr.: The junior from Belgrade, Serbia scored six times to lead California to a crucial conference victory over UC-Irvine. The returning All-American and former Serbian Junior National team player is the Golden Bears leading scorer this season.

Contest to Watch

USC-UCLA. Last year they faced off for the NCAA Championship and USC emerged with a one-goal victory. This season the two teams met for both the NorCal and SoCal Tournament titles with USC winning both encounters by a single score. Expect a classic as this game is extremely important for both squads. USC already has two losses in MPSF play and cannot afford another one. Meanwhile, UCLA needs to reverse this recent string of results against the Trojans.