March 30, 2009

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com

He's the head coach of a squad that has quietly developed into being a true contender in the East.  Maryland established its varsity water polo program in 2004.  In 2005, Carl Salyer took the helm and he has quickly put together a team that is capable of qualifying for this season's NCAA championship, which coincidentally enough will be in College Park.  Last season, Salyer's Terrapins won the CWPA Southern Division and they are looking even better this year.  I caught up with Salyer after his successful trip out West and before this weekend's slate of games which saw Maryland upend 18th-ranked Indiana. 

Your team is coming off a successful trip out West.  What kind of momentum can you derive from taking a UC Davis to sudden death overtime and playing California to a three-goal game?

It was a great trip.  A tough trip.  The schedule was not ideal as we played UC Davis and California on the same day.  We played Davis in the morning and took them to sudden death overtime and then hopped a van to play Cal in the afternoon.  We had a tough start to that game and I attribute that to fatigue from an overtime game and having to travel between places.  However, we wanted to play high level competition and we proved we can play at that high level.  I don't think we played particularly well, but we played tough.  Our focus is on winning the conference so that we will be playing in the NCAAs which are at our pool.

I look at the CWPA and while Michigan and Hartwick are the favorites, I have both you and Indiana looming as sleepers who could win the conference.  What do you have to do to win the CWPA?

We need to play three great games.  I agree that Michigan and Hartwick are the favorites, however I think everyone will be competitive. Even the 1-8 game will not be a slam dunk.  There will not be an easy game in that tournament.  We want to peak at the right time and put three good games together.

Can you tell us a little bit about Blaise Stanicic and what makes her the great player that she is?

Before I took the Maryland job, I was an assistant coach at Navy and coached the club team there.  Blaise played on that team so I have known her for years.  She knows the game and I would attribute that to her father being an assistant coach at Navy (Mladen Stanicic).  Blaise just plays at a high level and knows how to score the ball.  She is also leading the team in assists which is saying something since she does not play the two-meter position.  Blaise always works hard and is our most consistent field player.  She is a quiet leader who makes every player on the team better.

Rachel Jordan is also a big-time player for you.  Can you tell us a little bit about her game?

Rachel Jordan is a hard-nosed, tough, physical player.  She is our primary set and is tough as nails.  Rachel is a vocal leader who feeds off of the toughness of the game.  I always want to have two players that can post in the water at all times and Rachel's ability to play both inside and outside helps us.  She is great off of the counter and is an outstanding outside shooter.

Elizabeth Hopkins is also exceptional for your team.  What makes her the outstanding player that she is?

First off, she comes from the Coronado High School program which is always a perennial power.  Her brothers played for UC San Diego and Stanford (Thomas is on the U.S. National team).  She is the best pure outside shooter on the team.  Elizabeth can both post and defend.  Both her and Blaise can defend two-meter in a pinch.  She is very fast and is in fact our sprinter.  Elizabeth always works hard and is tough.

Is there any player you think may surprise us when postseason arrives?

The girl who does not get a lot of attention is Ashleigh Jobson.  She is very underrated and has been our most consistent player the last two years.  Ashleigh does a great job in goal.  Elina Goldenberg is an outstanding freshman.  I have a great group of seniors.  They were my first recruiting class and they have a lot of playing experience.  Any number of players on my team could step up their game down the stretch of this season as I have a great mix of youth and experience.