Senior leadership is the hallmark of most successful teams. On the 15th-ranked UC San Diego Women’s Water Polo team, senior captain Natalie Hockett is one of the pillars, in and out of the water. Third on the squad with 31 goals in 2007, she’s also racked up 21 steals and drawn a school single season record 15 five-meter penalty shots. “Natalie’s a hard worker, a tough competitor and really wants to win,” says Head Coach Larry Sanders of the Lake Elsinore native. “She leads by example and has really helped make the entire team more accountable.”As the 2007 regular season comes down to its final weeks, Hockett talked about her team, the outlook for the remainder of the schedule and her future. Q—How long have you been playing water polo? HOCKETT—I started playing water polo my junior year of high school which would make this my seventh season. Q—What other sports did you play growing up? Did any of the others contribute to your success in water polo? HOCKETT—When I was really little I was a dancer, then a synchronized swimmer. In high school, I was on the swim team all four years, played water polo two years and, tennis one year. Since the age of seven I’d been a synchronized swimmer and for years my goal was to compete in college. When I realized I had reached my peak after about nine years of competing nationally, my high school started a water polo team the very next year and I thought it would be an easy transition as I heard of many of my old synchro friends and teammates had done a similar thing. Due to my many years of synchro, I had really strong treading legs and was extremely comfortable in the water so all I had to really do was incorporate a ball and the rules of the game. In order to help pick up the flow of the game and see as much water polo as possible I helped keep the stat book for the boys’ team during my last two years in high school. Q—You are often set at two-meters on offense. What goes on when you’re battling for position in front of the goal? What are some of the “tricks” you use to get yourself open? HOCKETT—Well, I think I’d describe it as being similar to wrestling, there is hand/wrist grabbing, suit grabbing, spinning to get free from all the holding, pretty much anything you can think of in order to keep the other player behind you without the refs being able to see everything you are doing by keeping it under the water. I don’t know if I necessarily have “tricks” but I think it has a lot to do with knowing when to grab so as to have a position or advantage just at the moment your teammate is going to set the ball. You try to anticipate the pass and then make a move. Q—How would you describe your style of play? HOCKETT—Tough question. I’ve never really thought about what my particular style of play is, but I guess I would say that I am the kind of player that likes to get in there and get the job done and get out. I play hard and aggressive and have no mercy for the player that is guarding me, I am in center to create an advantage and that’s where all of my focus is and I will do what it takes to create that advantage. Q—How do the 2007 Tritons compare to the three previous UCSD teams you’ve been a part of? HOCKETT—All the teams I’ve been a part of have been unique in their own way and this year I think we have more chemistry, fight and heart than any of these previous teams. We may not have the flat out “talent” that we had in the years past but when we come out and dictate our game to the other teams and play like a well-oiled machine for an entire game, I think we can beat just about anyone. Because of this chemistry, we work really well together and I think we have a better idea of certain players’ style of play which gives us the ability to take more high percentage risks which can lead to goals. Not only on offense but I think this year we have amazing defense, we have a strong goalie in the cage and strong center backs which make us a little more confident and able to take the risks that may lead to a steal or other key play. Q—What’s it been like the last two years having your sister, Kim, on the team? HOCKETT—I enjoy having my sister on the team because I know how badly she wants to win and she, just like me, is going to do everything in her power to make that happen. It is nice we don’t have to compete for playing time because we are two of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. That makes it much easier on our relationship. Q—Let’s talk about some of the other players on the 2007 Tritons. Who has the hardest shot? Who is the best defender? Who has the best game sense? Who gets the most out of her ability? HOCKETT—I think Sarah Bajorek probably has the hardest shot on the team. It is hard to say who is the best defender because we have two very strong ones that have very different playing styles. Sarah is very strong strength-wise and will scrap, scratch and fight with you the entire time you are in center so when the ball does eventually come in you are too tired to do anything with it. Britta Nordstrom on the other hand has a ridiculously long arm reach and can usually sit behind and anticipate where and when the pass will come in and just steals it. I think this team as a whole has a lot of potential and ability and I am excited to see who is going to step up to the plate when it really counts. Q—This year’s WWPA race seems to be wide open with UCSD, Loyola Marymount, UC Davis and Santa Clara all legitimate contenders. What will be the key to winning the WWPA this spring and how does UCSD match up with each of those three teams? HOCKETT—Well, I think the saying “defense wins championships,” very much applies here. In order to beat these teams we will need to bring our “A” game and play amazing “D.” Not only that, we will need to dictate to the other teams how the game is going to be played on offense. I really think that if we come out and play our game, we will be very successful at conference this year. In the earlier part of the season, I think we have proven that we can play with anybody in the WWPA. Q—You’ve played the last two seasons in the new Canyonview Pool. What differences have you noticed between the original pool and the west pool? HOCKETT—I think the one noticeable difference is that while playing in the West pool you have to remember that the building is not parallel to the pool and can sometimes throw you off if you are not careful. It only really affects being inside the two-meter mark as well as inside the five-meter mark, which can ultimately lead to unnecessary turnovers. Q—What do you enjoy doing outside of water polo? HOCKETT—I would have to say I’m a very active person and prefer to be outdoors, more specifically near any large body of water. I like to scuba dive, I really would like to get back into surfing, boating, waterskiing and sailing—as well as many other water-related activities. Q—What have been the most difficult and interesting classes you’ve taken at UCSD? HOCKETT—When I got to UCSD I thought I was going to be doing something in the biology field right up until I had to take chemistry. I quickly found out it’s just not for me. I think my favorite class would have to be the Latin dances of the world class where you actually have to dance. It is a good fun introduction into many of the popular Latin dances. Q—You are a communications major. When will you graduate and what do you hope to do with your major? HOCKETT—As of right now, I guess I am actually graduated, I finished up my last classes this winter quarter and will walk in June. I am not sure if I will use my degree specifically but I plan to, well actually I am already working on getting my certificate in MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Q—What are three things you would like to accomplish in the next five years? HOCKETT—I guess one obvious one would be to in the next year or so have my MRI certificate completed. Once I have that I think I would like to work as a traveling MRI technician save some money and eventually buy a house. After that who knows, maybe embark on some new athletic endeavor or head back to school, whichever seems to fit best when the time arrives. I’ve always kind of thought I’d like to get my pilot’s license one day.