CSUN’s water polo team says defense is still priority for this 2011 season

Monique Muñiz

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CSUN's women's water polo team prepares for this coming 2011 season at the Matador pool. Photo Credit: Misael Virgen/Photo Editor

After an emotional end to last season that resulted in defeat at the Big West Tournament championship game against nemesis UC Irvine, the Matadors are looking toward a fresh start.

The Matador women’s water polo team, who ranked ninth in the nation at one point, are now in the process of rebuilding and are preparing themselves to get back to the Big West championship.

“The fall was spent incorporating the freshmen into the system,” said head coach Marcelo Leonardi, who was named official head coach in June. “Now in practice you can tell the fall was beneficial and the biggest thing was going back to fundamentals and making sure all the girls were on the same page.”

Returning players said that it would take some time to get the chemistry going like last season, but expect to know each other better both inside and outside the pool within a month.

“It’s something we are working on and us returners, we have to add the new players with the ones that didn’t see too much playing time last season and incorporate them in,” junior Whitney Delgado said. “We are starting to learn what kind of player each person is and how they like their passes.”

Where the Matadors shined last season was on their defense, which they still consider the top priority coming into the new season.

“It’s our goal, without a good defense our offense wouldn’t produce,” Heidi Pettinger said. “It would be nice to have the No. 1 defense in conference again and something we are looking toward.”

The fundamentals haven’t changed, but there will be some little changes to the team.

The defense had to make some changes after losing All-American goalkeeper Jillian Stapf, but Leonardi said Nicole Concialdi and Dana Harvey are defending the net well in practice and has yet to see who will be the starter for the rest of the season.

“We needed to become better field blockers and definitely work harder limiting opportunities to score and we are using our speed more to an advantage,” Leonardi said.

The team is coming off a season where they posted the best record in school history (28-8). The Matadors broke the record for most goals in a season with 371 and saw Delgado break the school record for most goals with 80.

Last weekend ended with the team heading to Ann Arbor, Mich., where they finished 1-3, losing to No 8 Michigan 14-8, No. 6 Loyola Marymount 15-6 and No. 4 UCLA 11-5. Their only win came against No. 13 Indiana, 6-5.