April 13, 2009

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com

In a week that saw two of the top three teams in the country wage a battle for the ages, it was an upset by the Wolverines of Ann Arbor that stole the headlines.

The jockeying for NCAA position is intensifying with the week.  With the tournament nearing, we have a special treat as I spoke with somebody who has an outstanding chance at being involved in the proceedings.

Eleventh-ranked Loyola Marymount is the clear favorite in the WWPA and I spoke with their assistant coach Kyle Witt about his team.  Many might remember Witt from his playing days as he led LMU to an NCAA Final Four in 2001 and ranks sixth on their all-time scoring list.  I spoke with Coach Witt prior to his team’s 11-9 victory over 20th-ranked UC-San Diego.

What does Loyola Marymount have to do to win the WWPA and make NCAA’s?

Winning the WWPA conference title is never an easy feat.  Winning six of the last eight conference titles has certainly made us the hunted and it is a role that we enjoy to play.  This year’s conference tournament is being played at Santa Clara’s new facility and should have some very competitive games from day one all the way to the title game.  In year’s past, we have relied on our defense to win us a conference title as we normally hold opponents to around 5 goals a game.  We allowed too many early season goals to get down to that average but we have managed to drop it down to around 7.5 goals a game against conference opponents.  We have scored nearly 14 goals a game in our conference games so we don’t seem to have too big of a problem there.  Conference championships are always won in the details with game plans, after goal plays, 6-5 plays, and 5-6 stops. 

Nicole Hughes is somebody who should be a first team All-American this season.  Can you tell us a little bit about her?

I believe that Nicole Hughes should be nominated for the Cutino Award at the conclusion of the season; that is how good she has been for us this year.  Nicole (along with Casey Flacks and Anne Scott) leads almost every swim set that we give the team and she also has become one of the best team captains and leaders that we have ever had on the women’s side.  Opponents can’t really stop Nicole from scoring and most resort to double-teaming her allowing our other players to get some great looks at the cage.  Nicole’s strengths are her ability to score from any position in the pool, her ability to never get tired, and her ability to never let an opponent’s game plan of getting physical with her or a poor referee call get in her head.  If Nicole decides to continue her playing career after college I believe that she would be an asset to our National Team.

Anne Scott has been very effective since transferring in.  What makes her the player that she is?

Anne Scott transferred to LMU from American River Junior College and has made an immediate impact on our program.  Anne is a phenomenal swimmer who was named PCSC Female Swimmer of the Year after a season where she finished first in her three individual events (50 free, 100 free, and 200 free) and first in three relays (200 free, 400 free, 800 free).  That kind of speed is hard to defend against and it creates a lot of opportunities for her and her teammates.  But it is not just speed that has allowed for Anne to have a successful year; she has good game sense that puts her in positions to score, as well as to play some great team defense.

You have had many contributions from your underclassmen including sophomores Mary Ann Campos, Diana Romero, Daisy Carillo, and freshmen Kimberly Benedetti, Flacks, and Elise Ponce.  Can you tell us what makes them the great players they are?

Our sophomores have had a great season this year in adapting to their new roles and stepping up and contributing more.  Mary Ann has had success this season through her excellent drives and ability to counter.  Mary Ann has created many opportunities for both herself and her teammates through her counterattacking.  Diana has stepped up as probably the top two-meter defender in the conference after coming off the bench for us last year.  Many teams cannot set on her which results in swimming another post up player to try and establish two-meters.  Diana also runs the point for us on offense.  She has found her shot recently and leads our counter defense where we give up very few goals.  Daisy transferred in from Cerritos College and is a sophomore this season.  She was unfortunately injured for about half the season.  Through this disappointment, Daisy has been able to remain focused and has come back without having to retrain herself into the LMU system too much.

Our freshmen class has made an immediate impact on this program and that speaks well for our future.  Kimberly has stepped into the role as starting two-meter player and has done a fantastic job by being our third leading scorer as a true freshman.  Her natural athleticism has allowed her to learn our system quickly and her defense has gotten better all year which is always a challenge for a two-meter player.  Casey has also stepped into the starting line-up and has been a great help defender for us by using her speed and game sense to get steals and create a ton of opportunities on the counterattack.  Casey has also become a better shooter as the season has gone on.  Elise has started about half of our games and has done a great job of responding to the goalie training that we have given her.  Her passing has led our counterattack on many occasions and she has saved us on a few occasions when our defense has broken down.

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Second-ranked USC renewed their cross-town rivalry with third-ranked UCLA and it was a classic.  In a game that saw nine ties and six lead changes, USC won 11-10 as Kristen Dronberger scored the game-winner with 2:14 left in the game.  This sets up a titanic clash next Saturday for the MPSF regular season crown with top-ranked Stanford.

It took triple-overtime, but 13th-ranked Michigan posted their biggest win of the year in upsetting seventh-ranked San Diego State 9-8.  Freshman Meagan Cobb scored the walk-off goal on a cross pass from Leah Robertson.  Michigan is entering the postseason on a roll having won 21-straight contests as the Wolverines also defeated Cal Baptist and 20th-ranked UCSD on the weekend.  The road win over San Diego State will generate immediate dividends as Michigan should move into the top ten nationally.   

Player To Watch
Kira Hillman and Lauren Silver, Stanford, Srs.:  It took a hat trick by both of these seniors to prevent fifth-ranked California from scoring a devastating upset.

Contest To Keep An Eye On
No. 1 versus No. 2.  MPSF regular season title up for grabs.  Stanford.  USC.  Buckle your seat belts.