Q&A with Junior Brian Donohoe


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Brian Donohoe has continued the proud water polo history of his family and is looking to lead the Tritons far into the postseason.
Brian Donohoe has continued the proud water polo history of his family and is looking to lead the Tritons far into the postseason.
Courtesy: Jimmy Gekas/Sideline Studios

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?

DONOHOE-There's 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 together.

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?

DONOHOE-As I 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?

DONOHOE-It's 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.

Q-During your freshman season, you played with your brother, Steve, who was a senior star on that 2009 club. What was that experience like?

DONOHOE-Honestly, 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?

DONOHOE-After he 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?

DONOHOE-Although 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.

Q-Individually, what one thing do you hope to do better this year?

DONOHOE-I came 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 fall?

DONOHOE-The 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?

DONOHOE-I've 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.

Q-For those unfamiliar, what sport or sports are most comparable to water polo and why?

DONOHOE-I always 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?

DONOHOE-There 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 population.

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?


DONOHOE-I believe 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.

Q-You've listed 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?

DONOHOE-I'm 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?

DONOHOE-I 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?

DONOHOE-No doubt 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.

Q-This week, 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?

DONOHOE-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