Up for the Challenge: Tritons Look to Build Off Recent Success
LA JOLLA, Calif. — A new season is on the horizon, but a lot remains the same for the University of California San Diego women’s water polo team.
Coming off a 24-win season, its sixth-straight Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) championship and a ninth-place NCAA finish, the Tritons return all but one starter and look to take the next step toward a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
But just seeing the calendar flip to January is enough to get head coach Brad Kreutzkamp excited.
“The new year has my juices flowing,” said Kreutzkamp, who enters his 10thseason as Tritons head coach with a 200-140 (.588) career record. “There’s a little pressure. We have a game coming up (Jan. 20) and there’s a lot of pieces we need to put together.
“But everybody’s in the same boat. We’ll be a bit rusty like everybody else, but I’m very, very excited right now.”
It may not take too long to knock the rust off.
UC San Diego brings back eight players who recorded at least 30 total points last season, led by senior Krista Schneider, who tallied team-highs with 61 points and 44 assists in 2018.
An Anaheim Hills, Calif., native and team captain has noticed a slightly different approach to UC San Diego’s early-season practices, with more focus on ensuring everyone knows their role while assimilating the freshmen into their style of play.
“Last year, we focused more on swimming and fundamentals,” she said. “This year, we’re doing a lot more scrimmaging and playing together as a team.
“We’re starting that early, and I think it’s important to be able to read each other with different schemes, and not just the starting lineup. We’re learning to play with every player on the team.”
Although there’s a long road ahead, the Tritons can’t help but keep an eye toward what could await them at the end of the year and beyond.
UC San Diego attempts to claim the WWPA title in its final year in the conference before transitioning to the Big West in the spring of 2020.
“The WWPA has been an awesome home for us,” said Schneider. “It’s been good to us, but the way our school is moving, the Big West is a great place for us to head.
“Playing my last year in the WWPA is pretty exciting just because we’ve been used to it and it’s home.”
A seventh-straight conference championship would put UC San Diego right back where the last two seasons ended — the NCAA Tournament Opening Round.
This time, the combination of past experience and a challenging 2019 schedule could help the Tritons get over that hurdle.
“I think we’ll have enough adrenaline this year,” said Schneider. “I’ve lost two years in a row in the opening round, so I’d be pretty pumped to play that game.”
About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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