In each of his three
years at UC San Diego, junior John Butler has progressively played an expanded
role on the UC San Diego Men's Water Polo team to the point that veteran Head Coach
Denny Harper now says, "he has definitely emerged as one of our best all-around
players." Third in goals scored and the team leader in assists, the
Hillsborough native was named first team All-WWPA and first team All-WWPA
Tournament as the Tritons (17-9) won their first conference title since 2006.
"Those honors were clearly deserved," noted Harper. "There are a lot of
positives to John's game but first and foremost is his intelligence. He's got a
really high polo IQ. He's a smart player and has developed into a solid outside
scoring threat." With the NCAA Championships and a Saturday semi-final date
against second-seeded UCLA fast approaching, Butler took a few moments to talk
about this year's squad, winning the WWPA and his growth as a player.
Q-After coming close
last year, what was the key to this year's team winning the Western Water Polo
Assn. (WWPA) crown?
this year had a new look. Our
variety of strengths allowed our team to develop a renewed focus and confidence
as opposed to previous seasons. Losing in the title game my freshman year and
outside the top three my sophomore season left much to be desired moving into
the 2011 season.
Q-What were your
immediate thoughts when the final buzzer went off against UC Davis in the WWPA
overwhelmed with so many emotions! I couldn't contain my excitement and sheer
joy. It's always great to accomplish your goals and this has been one of mine
since I entered the program.
Q-Talk about the ebb
& flow of the season and how your thoughts may have wavered in regard to
the year's ultimate outcome.
to be pleased with the start of our season. We lost only three of our first 14
matches. A loss to LMU at our home opener was tough to swallow. Yet we bounced
back strong and dominated LMU at the SoCal Tournament, 9-5. At that point, you
could tell the team was playing with a lot of confidence, particularly coming
off two big WWPA wins at the SoCal.
The team was cautious to stay diligent and prevent this from being the high
point of our season. Dropping six of our next nine games was not what we had in
mind but while these loses hurt our record, they helped us grow as a team. This
was the stretch of the season where we fully development in to the squad that
would win WWPAs.
Q-Your team heads to
Berkeley for the NCAA Final Four Thursday. What does that accomplishment mean
be a truly amazing experience. I can remember being a senior in high school and
choosing UCSD because I had the best opportunity to play there and go to the
"big show." I am so thankful for this opportunity. It means so much not only to
me but to our team and especially our seniors.
Q-Since the NCAA went
to its current four-team format, every year but one, the third and
fourth-seeded teams have lost in the first round. Is there anything that makes
you feel that result will change this time around?
the only team to win a first round game in the current format. Playing for a
successful, storied program with a coach who has been in the NCAA championship
game before definitely gives the team the sense of poise and belief necessary
Q-In your opinion,
what are the strengths of this year's squad? What area has improved the most
over the course of the year?
has become multi-faceted offensively. Our strength comes from the options we
force the opposing team to defend. Whether we score a goal from the counter,
perimeter, two-meter, post-ups or 6-5, you can count on us to get our share of
goals-and get them from multiple players.
Our team has improved most on the defensive side of the ball. Senior goalie
David Morton played extremely well throughout the season, but when our team
played strong defense in front of him we were unbeatable. Holding Santa Clara
to only two goals in the WWPA semi-final is a testament to this improvement and
Q-Was there a
particular point in the season when you felt the team may have "turned a
corner" or that the conference championship and NCAA berth were more
"possibility than dream?"
Davis a second time, 10-6, at home, and following that up with a 14-7 victory
over Santa Clara was the turning point for me. The goal is always to win the
conference and automatic bid to NCAA. The wins over Davis and Santa Clara
solidified this goal as a reality.
Q-This year's roster
has an interesting mix that includes six seniors, several freshmen playing key
roles and just about everything in between. How would you describe the team
chemistry and how, if at all, has it affected performance?
is an important part to any team but equally important is execution. Once the
game starts your year in school becomes irrelevant and our younger players have
taken this to heart. From top to bottom, our team has continued to execute game
plans and convert on the opportunities we have.
contributions to the team have increased each year and you finished the 2011
regular season with 33 goals and 43 assists. What do you feel is the biggest
difference in your game since you arrived at UCSD and what aspect would you
most like to further develop going forward?
entered the program Denny told me, "You want to compete in college Butler? Then
swim hard and play some bad a** defense." Thus, the focus of my efforts has
continued to stay in this area. But my biggest improvement has been my outside
shooting. My newly-developed ability to score the ball from the outside is what
I'm most proud of individually.
Moving forward, I'd like to continue my development on offense as a driver and
add a few more shots to my bag of tricks.
Q-In addition to
playing water polo and handling your academic requirements, you're also a
member of a fraternity and represent the team on the Triton Athletes' Council.
How do you find the time to balance all of those activities and do you find
there is the kind of crossover where one positively influences the others?
learned to love Giesel Library. Spending time in the library allows me to
isolate myself and accomplish my tasks. The most important part to balancing
all my activities is using my time effectively.
It's difficult at times to have so many balls in the air. I complicate this for
myself because I hate underachieving and will give every task 100%. While the
material might not overlap in my various organizations, the skills I've learned
with each have proven to be of the utmost importance.
Q-When you're not
doing any of those things, how do you like to spend your free time?
myself pretty busy but I try to find time to go home to visit my family in the
Bay Area. They have been so supportive of me and I love being with them.
Relaxing with my friends at the beach or watching college football helps me
clear my head along with some good tunes. When I can, I also pick up a good
Q-When you get on the plane to return to San
Diego Sunday night, what do you hope to have accomplished?
BUTLER-The flight back
to San Diego will bring mixed emotions. We have already accomplished so much
this season that I doubt anyone wants it to end. I know we will leave Berkeley
knowing we played with the best and fought our hardest to bring home an NCAA
Championship. I hope at the very least that we can send our seniors off with a
win. They have dedicated their collegiate careers to this program and I want to
win this for them.
Previous Q & A Articles
Lauren Demos (Women's Volleyball) November 8, 2011
Cory Wolfrom (Men's Soccer) October 26, 2011
Ellen Wilson (Women's Soccer) October 1, 2011
Brian Donohoe (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2011
Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 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