Water Polo is
something of a family affair for UC San Diego junior Brian Donohoe. His older
sister, Mary Pat played four years of high school and club polo before
attending UCSD, brother, Steve, was an All-American at UCSD and his sister,
Emily, is starting her freshman season at UCLA. After scoring 55 goals in his
first two seasons as a Triton, the 6-footer from Upland, CA has already
produced 11 scores in 2011 as 12th-ranked UCSD has raced out to a 7-1 early
season record. On the heels of an exciting, 16-15, victory over Navy and with
conference rival Loyola Marymount poised to visit La Jolla on Thursday, Donohoe
took time to talk about the
progress of this year's team, his own play and the sport of water polo.
Q-Eight games into
the season, how do you feel you're playing as an individual and a team?
DONOHOE-So far I
think the team has been playing extremely well this season. We've had some huge
character tests already, including comeback wins against Claremont two weekends
ago and a huge win against Navy last Friday night. Guys like Graham Saber and
Dave Morton have really stepped up to lead us to our 7-1 record so far.
As for myself, it's been a bit of an adjustment transitioning to a different
role on the team this year as more of a perimeter attacking presence than I
experienced last season, but I think as we play more and more games, I'll
become a lot more comfortable in that role.
Q-Even when you have
a strong core of returning players like you do this year, is there a sort of
"team learning curve" every season?
absolutely a learning curve that comes with the start of any new season, and
this year is no different. We lost a lot of really strong leadership last year
in guys like Ryan Allred, Kuba Bednarek and Bryce Madsen, but it's clear that
there are already a lot of older guys that have been willing to step into that
role this season. This year is also a lot different in that we've been working
a number of true freshmen into the starting rotation, meaning that we've all
had to adjust to each other's playing styles in the short time we've been
Q-How has this year's
team handled the development of that chemistry? What do you think are some of
the elements that led to the team coming together?
DONOHOE-So far, I
think everyone on the team has done a great job of developing the chemistry
that's going to be so important to our success as the season continues. I think
that this trend has been most apparent in the way in which we've been able to
perform in late game situations up to this point, especially during the big win
against Navy. Our ability to maintain composure in those situations is really
indicative of the trust and confidence we all have in each other.
The biggest element that has contributed to this chemistry so far is definitely
the experiences we shared during hell week. The mental and physical challenges
associated with that stretch of the preseason is something that sets us apart
from other people and brings us closer together as teammates.
Q-Looking back at
your two previous years in the program, from a "playing style" standpoint, how
would you say this year's squad is different from its predecessors?
mentioned earlier, we've got an unusually high number of younger guys getting
big minutes for us so far this season, and I think that it's this youth that
sets our team apart from any other that I've played on up to this point. It's
required a lot of the older guys, including myself, to adjust to new roles in
the pool, and to really step up and assume a great deal of leadership and
responsibility as the new guys become more comfortable at this level of play.
Q-Can you talk more
about how you feel your role has changed?
weird to think about, but entering my third season at UCSD, I'm now one of the
more experienced players in the program. Accordingly, I've had to step into a
role of greater leadership and responsibility in the pool, especially
considering the number of younger guys on the team. It's been a bit of a
challenge, as I now realize that much of what I do both in practice and in
games has an effect on the development of many of those younger guys.
freshman season, you played with your brother, Steve, who was a senior star on
that 2009 club. What was that experience like?
it was one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of. It was the first
time in my life that Steve and I were able to play on the same team, and one of
the biggest reasons that I chose to attend UCSD in the first place. It'll
definitely be something that we can always look back on later in life.
Q-How did things
change for you when he graduated?
graduated, I definitely felt like it was my time to step up and assume a bigger
role in the program. He was able to teach me a great deal during the season we
played together, and I just hope that I'll be able to use all of that to set my
own name in UCSD water polo history.
Q-Would you have liked your younger
sister to have come to UCSD?
I would have loved to have been able to spend a couple of years with my little
sister at UCSD, I can't say that I'm disappointed that she chose to attend UCLA
to play water polo. If anything, I'm simply proud of the fact that she's been
successful enough in her water polo career to have earned the opportunity to
become a scholarship athlete at one of the most storied athletic programs in
the nation. She's worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot in order to become
as talented a player as she is, and I'll do nothing but support her for the
next four years that she's a part of the program.
one thing do you hope to do better this year?
into this season hoping to become a more well-rounded player than I have been
in the past. There were parts of my game last season that definitely showed
some weaknesses, and I was really intent on developing a more sustained
counter-attack presence than I've had in the past, as this is an area that our
program traditionally prides itself on excelling in. I think that I've also
been able to assume a more dominant role on the defensive side of the ball this
year, which was also an area I hoped to improve on.
Q-The team got some
international experience this summer with a trip to Croatia. What were some of
the highlights of that trip and do you think it will benefit the team this
Croatia trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It allowed us to experience
some of the greatest competition in the world, and adjust to a much more
physical European style of play. We also owe a lot to Russ Hafferkamp, a friend
of head coach Denny Harper, who made the trip with us, working with our
two-meter men and giving us a great deal of perspective from one of the most
experienced and decorated players in the history of American water polo. The
trip has already paid dividends in terms of team chemistry, and has led to an
overall increase in the level of play of our team.
Q-How and why did you
get started playing water polo? What aspects of the sport keep you playing?
always had a huge background in the aquatic world, as I started swimming
competitively at about the age of four. However, for the first 12 years of my
life, I was fully committed to soccer. But my older brother and sister began
playing water polo when they got to high school, and it was enough to convince
me to give up soccer and start playing polo when I was in sixth grade. It's
been my life ever since.
unfamiliar, what sport or sports are most comparable to water polo and why?
tell people that water polo is a combination of the elements of a few different
sports, especially soccer and basketball. The general layout of the course is
most comparable to that of soccer, with two goals being guarded by goalies, and
six field players on each side attacking the opposing goal. However, the
structure of the game is very similar to that of basketball, in terms of
offensive and defensive strategies and the fact that every field player must participate
in both offensive and defensive sets.
Q-If you could change
one rule in your sport, what would it be?
were a number of proposed rule changes during the offseason, one of which
involved altering the scoring structure of the game to mirror that of
basketball, with longer goals accounting for three points, while shorter goals
would account for two. I think that this could potentially increase the
excitement of the game and hopefully garner more interest among the general
Q-Your coach, Denny
Harper, has been the head man at UC San Diego for more than 30 years. How is he
able to relate to the players? What is the best and toughest thing about
playing for Coach Harper?
that the greatest advantage his experience has given him is, in fact, his
ability to relate to his players. As he tells us all the time, there's very
little that he hasn't seen or heard from at least one of his former players. As
a result, I think that he's able to get the most out of the players that enter
his program. I believe coaching is all about the ability to maximize a player's
talent given that player's overall potential, and I don't think there's anybody
in the business that's better at it than Denny.
reading as one way you spend your spare time. What are a few of your all-time
favorite books and what recent works would you recommend?
DONOHOE- Not to
sound too nerdy, but I'm definitely a big fan of the fantasy genre, and so some
of my all-time favorite books would include the Lord of the Rings trilogy and
all of the Harry Potter books. Right now I'm in the middle of a really good
series called the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, so if you're ever in the mood
for some fantasy than I definitely recommend them.
Q-Outside of water polo, what are your
favorite sports to play? Watch?
definitely a big fan of both basketball and football. Those are two of the
sports that I enjoyed playing most growing up, and continue to be the two
sports that I watch most avidly now. A lot of my family is from the Midwest,
where football reigns supreme, so that had a lot of effect on my interest in
the sport at a young age. And growing up in the greater Los Angeles area,
almost everyone is a Lakers fan, and I'm no different.
Q-Where are you at
academically and what do you hope to do in the future?
recently switched my major to History, but I still hope to attend medical
school at the end of my undergraduate studies. Therefore, I still have to take
a ton of science classes in order to fulfill the med school requirements, so
the history classes give me a bit of a break from the monotony of repeated
science courses. I also hope that the combination of history and science will
diversify my resume when I apply to med school, and give me a better chance of
being accepted to those schools.
Q-Is Canyonview the
best home venue in collegiate water polo?
about it. And not only is Canyonview the best venue in collegiate water polo,
but our fans are the best in the sport too. The support we consistently get at
our home games is nothing short of incredible, and gives us a huge advantage
over visiting schools when we play. I truly believe that other teams fear
coming to UCSD to play games, knowing how intense our fan base is.
conference rival Loyola Marymount comes to Canyonview. What do you expect out
of that game and how do you think it will affect the remainder of the season?
Home opener is one of the
things that I look forward to most every year, and the fact that it's against
LMU this season only makes it that much more exciting. Our rivalry with LMU is
one of the biggest in the water polo world, and both teams will be fired up and
ready to play their best. There's no doubt in my mind that we are capable of
winning this game, and I think that if we have a good start and execute our
sets then we will put ourselves in a great position to win at the end of the
game. The outcome will have a huge effect on the momentum that we hope to carry
into the rest of the season, and will be a huge step forward in our journey to
ultimately win a WWPA conference championship.
Previous Q & A Articles
Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Vincent Nguyen (Tennis) July 1, 2011
Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011
Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011
Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011
Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011
Drew Lawyer (Men's Crew) April 11, 2011
Keith Okasaki (Men's Golf) March 26, 2011
Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011
Hanalei Crowell (Women's Water Polo) March 5, 2011
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