just a sophomore, Salinas, Calif. native David Morton is in his second season as the
starting goalie for the 11th-ranked UC San Diego Men’s Water Polo
team. The 6-foot-1 Salinas High School graduate was an honorable mention
All-WWPA selection in 2008 and his 259 saves ranked as the seventh-highest
single season total in UCSD history. He’s already chalked up 195 in the
Tritons’ first 22 games this year. “David got a lot of experience last year but
this year I think he’s turned the corner as far as really understanding what it
takes to be a goaltender at this level,” said Head Coach Denny Harper. “I’ve
told him that it almost always comes down to goalie play in the championship
situations and I think he’s poised to have some big games down the stretch for
us.” With the WWPA Championships less than a month away, Morton took time to
talk about his team’s prospects and what it’s like playing his position at the
did it feel last year as a freshman to find yourself starting for UCSD against
the top collegiate teams in the country? MORTON: Last
year was an incredible experience that I will certainly never forget, but it
was very tough starting as a true freshman in the cage. The Division I level is a huge
difference from the high school level and it was a struggle for me to get some
confidence and play well on a consistent basis.
Q: Talk about some of the highs and lows you experienced last fall... MORTON: Like
I mentioned, it was hard for me from a consistency standpoint last year. I had a lot of big performances and a
lot of poor performances and I needed to be a more consistent in my
position. Last year I went from
having four saves against LMU and eight against UCSB at the SoCal Tournament,
to having 19 saves against UCSB and 10 against LMU the following weekend.
much better prepared did you feel coming into the 2009 season than you did in
your first year? MORTON: This
year I had a lot more confidence and experience entering the 2009 season, which
has allowed me to play well on a much more consistent basis. Over the course of the last year I have
made a lot of significant adjustments to my game, which have made me a much
better player this year.
you compare the physical and mental requirements necessary to be a top
collegiate goalie? MORTON: Physically,
a collegiate goalie is typically tall and lanky, which allows them to cover a
large portion of the cage with their wingspan. A goalie must also have very strong legs so that they can
cover the vertical distance of the cage. A good goalie will be able to egg beater out to his waist and hold it
for several seconds.
Mentally a goalie must be the toughest on the team. The goalie is the last line of defense
and his role is pivotal to the team's success. He needs to be able to be able to bounce back after being scored on and
maintain mental composure and focus throughout the entire match.
dealt with some injuries and went through a rough period earlier in the year.
How difficult is it performing in goal at this level when you’re not at 100%? MORTON: Earlier this season I suffered from a hyper-extended elbow and a strained MCL in my
left arm from which I am still recovering. As a goalie, it was tough to block the ball with an injured
arm and I played a little tentatively to prevent further damage. At the collegiate level, you can ill
afford to have a weakness because players will find that weakness and exploit
part of your game has improved the most since coming to UC San Diego? MORTON: I
have improved in a lot of areas, but I believe the biggest step I have made has
been being able to focus on the ball and not the shooter so I don't get faked
out or surprised by good shooters. My strength and conditioning have improved, as well as my communication
skills in the pool.
about the UCSD coaching staff. What does each bring to the team? MORTON: We
have an excellent coaching staff between Denny (Harper), Brad (Kreutzkamp) and
Glenn (Busch). Each coach plays a
unique role and brings a unique personality and all three have been pivotal to our success. I believe Denny is
a very respected and renowned coach on the national level. He has more coaching experience than
any other coach out there and knows everything there is to know about the
game. He is great at motivating
guys and getting them to push themselves to new limits and always work
Brad, who was recently selected to be the UCSD women's head
coach, was and is still a very significant part of the coaching staff -- always
bringing intensity and energy to practices and games. Both Brad and Denny have been phenomenal at developing
players to compete against opponents from the top D-I teams who are essentially
paid to play.
Glenn, who is primarily the goalie coach, has been vital to
my development as a collegiate goalie so far and is great at getting us to work
hard in conditioning.
has been a crazy fall with the unexpected closure of Canyonview Pool for more
than a month, throwing practice schedules into disarray and games to be played
off-campus. How difficult has that scenario been from the players’ perspective? MORTON: Losing
Canyonview put the team in an incredibly difficult situation. We essentially lost all home field
advantage and were thrown out of routine by having practice very late at night
and early in the morning. However,
we don't like to use the pool as an excuse for any disappointments we may have
had. We tried our best to turn a
negative into a positive and now that we are back at Canyonview, I expect us to
start getting into a better groove and rhythm as we approach the WWPA
were your feelings when you found out that Canyonview was going to be
re-opened? MORTON: I
was extremely excited to find out that we had our pool back, especially since
we are approaching crunch time in our season.
you looking forward to the first game back at Canyonview against Santa Clara,
Saturday, Nov. 7? MORTON: Definitely. I miss the crowd we have for Canyonview
games, which I believe gives us a huge home field advantage compared to other
schools. It will be nice to play
at CV where we are very comfortable and I’m expecting it will pay huge
dividends in a very important conference match up against Santa Clara.
isn’t the first place one thinks of when the talk comes to water polo hotbeds.
How did you get started in the game and what do you like most about it? MORTON: My
high school coach was a close family friend of mine growing up. He was a two-time
Olympian and an All-American at UC Irvine. He encouraged me to try out for the team and ever since then
it has been my favorite sport. I
personally enjoy the physicality of the sport and the conditioning it requires.
toughest situations for a goalie have to be penalty shots or one-on-one breakaways.
How do you approach each of those? MORTON: Like
I mentioned earlier the goalie is the last line of defense and so I approach
each of these situations like its the last ball I'll ever block.
are three things you’d like to accomplish before graduating from UCSD? MORTON: I
want to be a team captain, an All-American, and win the conference championship
which would put us in the NCAA Final Four.
of water polo, what do you enjoy about San Diego and UCSD? MORTON: I
really enjoy the beach life and laid back atmosphere. Surfing is one of my biggest hobbies so I enjoy surfing some
of the best breaks on the entire the West Coast.
can you share about your academic pursuits and what type of long term future
plans you have? MORTON: I
am currently majoring in international studies with primary track in
economics. After UCSD I am
planning on going to law school and possibly coaching some water polo.
are a lot of new faces in the UCSD lineup this year and, as mentioned previously,
it’s been less than a smooth road so far. Does this team have an upside we
haven’t seen and what do you expect to happen between now and the end of the
season? MORTON: This
year's starting lineup has seen a lot of unexpected changes after returning only
two of our seven starters from last fall. I think this year’s team is very capable of winning a championship, it
is just a matter of putting all the right pieces together when it counts. We have had a less than ideal season
thus far, but that won’t matter if we finish strong. The conference
championship is the key to the season. We win that and we go to NCAA’s, which
is always our primary goal. Our team hasn't been as consistent as we would have
liked this year but we have played some big games with great defensive
intensity and defense wins championships.