One only has to look at the championship plaques or peruse a list of Olympians to see UC Irvine as a traditional water polo power. This season, UC Irvine is once again sporting a top ten squad loaded with talent.
The Anteaters finished fourth place at the SoCal Invitational and is in midst of MPSF Conference play. UC Irvine enters a critical week as they play NorCal powers Pacific and California in critical conference tests. The Anteaters are led by two-time MPSF Coach of the Year Marc Hunt. Below, he discusses the defensive changes affecting his team’s chances at postseason play.
UC Irvine’s wins against UCSB and California demonstrate clearly that you can beat anybody. What do you need to do to finish the season strong?
Hunt: We need a lot more focus on defense and we need to make adjustments. Teams have adjusted from playing us early in the season and now we have to respond to that.
Bojan Hrlec is a junior college transfer that is currently leading your team in scoring, while Mitch Wise is a strong returning All-American. Can you tell us a little about them?
Hunt: Bojan brings intensity to the pool. He is a very serious young man who puts a lot of thought into what he does. He has a live arm, good experience and has been an impact player immediately.
Mitch is highly competitive along with being a great teammate. He has a well-rounded game. He doesn’t lose his cool and plays mature beyond his experience and age. Mitch, along with Winston Newland, are captains of the team, and both have a burning desire to succeed.
You have a younger group with a lot of your core guys coming back next season including Hrlec, Wise, Alex Kazmier, Jacob Mourer and Alan Robertson. What are your goals for this group for both this season and next?
Hunt: Right now I’d like to focus on the task at hand. We are in the MPSF. Our goal is to make the MPSF tournament. Only eight of the nine teams get in. Once there, I’d like to make some noise. Unfortunately, we had injuries to two fifth-year seniors in Jimmy Friedrich and Brian Pickford which has challenged us. Friedrich was a top talent in the cage. Brian Pickford, our top perimeter defender, broke his wrist. Losing those two guys hurt, but the benefit is that we do have a lot of guys getting experience they may not normally get. It’s time to see some players mature.