Q&A with Senior Attacker Hanalei Crowell


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Hawaii native Hanalei Crowell is finishing up her career on the mainland and hoping to continue her stellar early season.
Hawaii native Hanalei Crowell is finishing up her career on the mainland and hoping to continue her stellar early season.
Courtesy: UCSD

With more than 100 collegiate goals to her credit, UC San Diego senior Hanalei Crowell has more than established her credentials as a top flight women's water polo player. But in the eyes of Head Coach Brad Kreutzkamp, the quiet native of Kailua, HI is much more than just a competent goal scorer. "Hanalei is our No. 1 outside threat but she's also the person we put on the opposing team's best scorer," says Kreutzkamp. "Out of the water, she's definitely a calming influence who helps keep the rest of our players grounded and focused on the task at hand." With the No. 18 Tritons preparing for the second half of their 2011 season, Crowell took time to talk about her sport, her team and growing up in Hawaii.

Q-You're involved in a sport dominated by big, physical players. How does someone that's 5-foot-6 and slightly built survive in that world?

CROWELL- A smaller player has to use her size to her advantage by being quicker and smarter than the bigger players.  Our team isn't known for our big, physical players but we still compete with teams like that because we are quick and smart.

Q-Given your physical limitations, what's the most difficult aspect of the game?

CROWELL-Given my size, the most difficult aspect of the game for me is one-on-one strength.  I'm definitely not the strongest on the team but I try to use my speed and quickness to hide that fact.

Q-In one sentence, how would you sum up the sport of water polo?

CROWELL-Water polo is one of the most physical, intense, rugged, aggressive sports in the world.

Q-What sport do you find is the most similar to water polo and why?

CROWELL-I think water polo is a combination of swimming and wrestling.  If you're not swimming, you're wrestling with someone and if you're not wrestling, you're swimming, and sometimes you're doing both at the same time.

Q-In high school you were on the swim team and water polo team, why did you choose to pursue water polo in college?

CROWELL-I preferred water polo to swimming the first day of water polo practice when I was eight years old.  From then on it was all about water polo.  In fact, in high school I only swam to stay in shape for water polo.  I enjoyed the team aspect of water polo much more than the individual aspect of swimming, and I knew that I wanted to pursue water polo in college at a pretty young age.

Q-What did you find to be the biggest difference between high school and collegiate water polo?

CROWELL-High school and collegiate water polo are worlds apart in every aspect of the game, but I think the biggest difference is the physicality.  High school water polo is much "cleaner" than collegiate water polo.  There definitely aren't as many broken noses and black eyes in high school as there are in college.

Q-After scoring 22 goals in your first two seasons, you more than doubled that total with 49 as a junior and have 32 already this year. What's led to the "offensive explosion" the last two seasons?

CROWELL-I started taking the 5-meter penalty shots my junior year, which is where I get a lot of my goals and why I started scoring more.  I also started getting more comfortable in the field and having more opportunities to score in games once I became a starter my junior year.

Q-Aside from scoring goals, what do you consider your most important contribution to the success of the team? How does your role this season differ from previous years?

CROWELL-I think my most important contribution to the success of the team is trying to lead by example.  I know when I was a freshman I really looked up to the seniors on my team so I'm trying to do the same for the freshmen now.  In previous years I've always looked up to the seniors for leadership so I feel like this year I need to fill that role for the underclassmen. 

Q-Talk a little bit about your impressions of Head Coach Brad Kreutzkamp. He stepped into his position prior to your junior year. What has he brought to the UCSD program?

I didn't get to meet Brad until half way through my junior year because I studied abroad for fall quarter, so I only knew what other people told me about him and what I could tell from our email conversations. 

When I came back in January, I could tell things were different from the previous years.  Practices were more intense, Brad was more intense, and expectations were much higher.  Aside from that, Brad brought Jenna (Murphy), our assistant coach, who is great for our program with her water polo knowledge and experience and has really helped us improve.  This year we have 10 new people, which is half our team, and all of them will contribute positively to our program for the next few years. 

I think most importantly, Brad and Jenna are building our program and looking to the future of UCSD water polo, which is evident in the current freshmen class.  I expect UCSD to win a lot of conference championships in the next few years.

Q-Your older sister, Kamaile, played water polo at UCLA. Was there any sibling rivalry there? Have the two of you ever gone head-to-head in a game? If so, how did that turn out?

CROWELL-Kamaile and I have been on opposing teams our whole lives, unfortunately.  We only played against each other once in college, but we also went to rival high schools so we played against each other a lot then.  When she was a senior, I was a freshman and unfortunately my team didn't beat her team that year, but both of us did get to participate in Hawaii's first state championship for water polo, which was pretty cool and memorable.

I do remember one game where we were guarding each other and it got a little physical for a second but that's water polo.  I am glad we only had to play against each other for two years though and wish we could've been on the same team at least once because it would've been really fun playing with her instead of against her.

Q-What was it like growing up in Hawaii? What led you to come to UC San Diego for college and how would you compare your hometown to La Jolla?

I loved growing up in Hawaii.  The weather is always nice there, even when it's raining, and the beaches are always warm.  I live five minutes from the beach and would go pretty much every weekend.  I love the people, the food, the beaches, the mountains, the history, the culture, everything.  I wanted to come to UCSD for college because I knew I wanted to go somewhere in California, and San Diego, especially La Jolla, is the best city in California. 

I loved UCSD's campus and the competitive water polo and academics.  I can honestly say UCSD was the perfect fit for me.  La Jolla reminds me a lot of Kailua because they're both little beach towns.  I kind of think of La Jolla as the mainland version of Kailua because it's not quite like Hawaii, but as close as it's going to get.

Q-Anyone from Hawaii could probably be considered something of a "beach expert." What would you rank as the best beach in San Diego? Why?

CROWELL-I think I'm more of a beach snob than a beach expert because I was so spoiled with warm Hawaii beaches, but I do really like Blacks beach.  I've only been there once, sadly, but when I went it was really peaceful and secluded.  There were like three people on the beach and dolphins surfing in the waves.  We don't get to see that in Hawaii very often so that was really cool.

Q-Outside of water polo, what sports do you enjoy playing and watching?

CROWELL-I really dislike running so I don't do too many land sports, but I do like playing racquetball even though I don't really play it often.  And no, I don't surf often either, but I like to stand up paddleboard when I'm at home.  I like watching my brother's baseball games and love watching any sport in the Olympics, especially water polo, because the level of play is so intense and exciting.

Q-What do you enjoy doing in your spare time and what are some of your non-sports hobbies?

I love to nap.  I can nap anywhere at any time for hours.  When I'm not napping, I'm usually watching Food Network.  I also like going to the beach when it's warm out, reading when I have free time, and shopping, of course. 

Q-You've listed knitting as one of your interests. How did that come about and what's the most interesting/difficult thing you've ever knitted?

CROWELL-I'm so happy this is one of the questions because I can finally explain myself!  The summer before college I was a teaching assistant for a knitting class at an elementary school in Kailua.  I didn't know how anything about knitting prior to the class but they assigned me to it anyway.  The teacher needed to teach me how to knit so I could help the kids if they needed help so I literally learned in a day. 

Every day after that, I knitted with the rest of the class and ended up becoming slightly obsessed.  I would knit anywhere and everywhere, even on deck before club water polo practices.  So when the time came to list my hobbies for UCSD Athletics, I obviously had to put knitting because that's all I did that summer.  I knitted a really ugly scarf that summer that at the time I thought was awesome.  I have never worn it and have not knitted since that summer-but I love that it still says that and that people actually think I knit.

Q-You have a fairly young, inexperienced team that is approaching the halfway point of its season. What would be your evaluation of how the team has performed to date and what do you think of its potential for the second half?

CROWELL-I think the team has done well so far for being so young.  Our freshmen are doing awesome this year and have helped our team a lot.  We're 4-1 in conference right now and gunning for the No. 2 seed at the conference championship, which is exactly where we want to be.  We've had a couple of rough games this season but overall we're on the right track.  I think the second half will be better than the first because we have some good games coming up against competitive teams that we are capable of beating so we'll see how that goes.

Previous Q & A Articles

Camille Gaito (Softball) February 23, 2011

Tim Shibuya (Baseball) February 8, 2011

Carl Eberts (Men's Volleyball) January 31, 2011

Neda Nguyen (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 24, 2011

Amy Bianchini (Fencing) January 14, 2011

Lauren Freidenberg (Women's Basketball) January 3, 2011

Christian Hatch (Men's Basketball) December 24, 2010

Blake Langland (Men's Swimming & Diving) November 27, 2010

Sarah McTigue (Women's Soccer) November 8, 2010

Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010

Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010

Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010

Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010

Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010

Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010

Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010

Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010

Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010

Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010

Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010

Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010

Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010

Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010

Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010

Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010

Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010

Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009

Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009

Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009

Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009

David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009

Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009

Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009

Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009

Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009

Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009

Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009

Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009

Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009

Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009

Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009

Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009

Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009

Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009

Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009

Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009

Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009

Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009

Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009

Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009

Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009

Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009

A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009

Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009

Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009

Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009