Experience brings Waves together
Pepperdine cracks top 10 despite last year’s slow start
MALIBU, Calif. -- With a talented and experienced squad, sixth-year head coach Jack Kocur is excited about the prospects of 2011 Pepperdine team. Despite finishing the 2010 campaign with a record of 9-18 overall and 1-7 in MPSF play, the Waves are ranked ninth nationally to start the season.
The theme for the 2011 Waves is coming of age. The difference in experience of having juniors and seniors starting -- as opposed to sophomores and juniors as was the case last year -- is invaluable for confidence and a higher level of play for the Waves.
Kocur explains, "There is a big gap between your sophomore and your junior year in that the confidence level rises; you all of a sudden become an upper classmen mentally. Your ability in the water is now that I am the big guy playing against the small guy. That is going to add to our team overall, but especially at 2 meters."
Kocur and his fourth year assistant coach, Gary O'Brien, are excited to have the opportunity to test this year's group -- one that now has played multiple seasons together. With this strong number of returners, the Waves have added only two freshmen this season in Luke Hewko and Josh Tice, putting the team well ahead of where it was at this time any of the past few years.
"We are excited about that, having guys that already know our offensive and defensive schemes. Hopefully that will catapult us at the beginning of the season, instead of us having to teach the whole entire season and peaking at the end," Kocur said.
Between the pipes, 2010 MPSF honorable mention selection Bence Valics is a strong sophomore for the Waves, having 73 quarters of action from his freshman season, with 169 saves overall. Matthew Carter provides a backup capable of fighting for the number one position.
According to Kocur, "It is exciting right now because they are both doing very well competing for that position. Bence, with the experience [and ability] to have a leadership role with our defense this year is a big point for him. He has the ability to determine what defense we will be running depending on what offensive schemes are thrown at us."
Senior Andrew Milcovich returns after a redshirt year in 2010, adding a strong, veteran presence for the Waves in and out of the pool. Kocur believes that Milkovich's leadership is invaluable out of the water, and in it, he could break out in a big way for the Waves.
"We are also looking for this to be a big breakout year for him. Having only 56 goals for his career in 3 years, I think you are going to see him go for 40-50 goals just this season alone. I think it's going to be a big breakthrough year offensively for him."
Senior Nathan Castillo has already shown major improvement after his first year with the Waves since transferring in from junior college. As a junior he placed second on the team with 25 goals scored.
"He is going to have a great year. We're hoping to get another 40 or 50 goals out of him. We see great potential with him. He is getting in shape where he needs to get in shape; his physical and his mental awareness are starting to sharpen to a Division I level," Kocur explained.
Newcomer Matthew DeTrane a junior college transfer arrived in Malibu in January. He has had the opportunity to play with the squad for nine months, which is great because he has had time to get acclimated with the system. Kocur believes he has been a great attribute with his offensive skills.
"He is fast, he is quick, long, left-handed, you can never go wrong there. We are definitely looking for [Castillo] and DeTrane as a one-two combo on the left-hand side," Kocur stated.
Kocur believe the surprise player of the year is probably Colin Carrol. He went from starting goalie two years ago to now a 2-meter defender.
"He is our fastest guy. That is an attribute to his athleticism, going from a starting goalie to a 2-meter defender. He is going to get a lot of playing time,"
Kocur says. "He is kind of a dark horse. Nobody really knows him and I think he will do well ball-controlling the offense and being a defensive specialist since he knows the defensive game from a goalie standpoint."
Juniors Spencer Hamby, James Perry and Matt Brown at the two-meter position are slotted to be the "Big Three" in the middle.
"They are very versatile at the attack, and having three big guys that can do something with the ball, not only hold position but finish, is going to be exciting. Seeing those three guys really dominate at two-meters will then open up our perimeter game complementing them."
Hamby is currently in Volos, Greece, competing with the U.S. Junior National team at the FINA Junior World Championships. Kocur believes that provides great experience for him and should give him confidence to come in his junior year to really shine and lead Perry and Brown.
Continuing with the coming of age theme, Danny White, the 2010 team's leading goal scorer with 36 goals is a junior as well.
"We really think his ability and confidence will push him forward this year. We are expecting big things out of him offensively, not only with his post-up game but also his outside shot," Kocur said.
Junior Stephen Loomis is another player Kocur envisions having a breakthrough season in 2011.
"He is long, lanky and very crafty with the ball. He has the ability to do a post-up game. His specialty is inside five meters with quickness and separation, so we are thrilled to see what he can do. I think the fact that he is now going into his junior year is important."
Key role players for the Waves include Nick Cooper, Michael Tragitt, Brandon Picone, Parker Peterson and Tommy Briskey. Kocur explains that the team will need them to fulfill their roles to allow other players to open up for shot opportunities with their controlled offense and defense.
Overall the Waves are poised to have a breakout season, led by a strong defensive unit and a rapidly improving offensive core. Kocur is counting on experience and confidence to help elevate the level of play, ensuring that the 2011 Waves are ready to take on the best in the tough MPSF Conference.