It was a young squad that hit the water for UC San Diego Men’s Water Polo Coach Denny Harper in last weekend’s season-opening Triton Invitational. One of the cornerstone’s of Harper’s 27th Triton team is senior co-captain Curtis Williamson. A speedy, 6-1 driver, Williamson scored 15 goals and dished out 10 assists on a 2006 UCSD team that was considered by many to be the best in school history. His role figures to be significantly expanded in 2007. “Curtis has come a long way,” says Harper. “He reminds me a lot of (2006 senior) Jesse Casellini—someone who has been in the program for a long time and each year gets closer and closer to being that ‘go to guy.’ I think he’s poised to have a really good season and has emerged as such a good leader on our team.” On the eve of his final collegiate season, Williamson reflected on his career and what lies ahead.
Q—How did you spend your summer?
WILLIAMSON—In additions to taking summer school I taught surf lessons for the Recreation Department at UCSD. I also played summer league water polo, and spent the time I had left surfing and free diving.
Q—What are your feelings about being one of just three seniors on the 2007 roster?
WILLIAMSON—Of the four of us that started together as freshman, three are still playing and have developed a nice bond. I think that having three seniors on a team provides a good combination of upper classman experience and leadership.
Q—There will be a significant number of “new” players in the rotation this season; how has the team been coming together during pre-season training?
WILLIAMSON—The starting lineup is a mostly composed of a group of players that were all in a rotation together last year. That rotation saw a fair amount of playing time last year. This will certainly help our team chemistry. The new players have been great so far. They have been very positive about our training which will help us reach our goals.
Q—Based on what you’ve seen so far, what do you think the strengths of this year’s team will be?
WILLIAMSON—I think this team will have a good counter attack. Also, we do have players on the team that are very strong and are going to be able to physically match up well against larger teams.
Q—Give us a brief re-cap of your first three seasons at UCSD. What do you expect out of yourself in 2007?
WILLIAMSON—I started for part of my freshman season and learned a lot about pressure and executing in game situations. My second year there were a large number of seniors so I spent my time doing whatever I could to help them train. My third year I played on a second line up that would come in to relieve the starters aiming to wear out the opposing team with our speed.
This fall, I’d like to be able to provide consistent leadership and put to use the experience I’ve gained from the previous three seasons.
Q—Last year provided a string of highlights for UCSD Men’s Water Polo? What was the biggest moment from your perspective?
WILLIAMSON—Beating UCLA was a great accomplishment. This was the first time ever that any UCSD athletic team had ever beaten UCLA. When we won WWPA, we did it as a team and it was a thrill to be a part of that. That WWPA win meant that we went onto the NCAA Final Four which was a lifetime experience.
Q—What do you think is more important in the collegiate men’s water polo game, speed or strength? Why?
WILLIAMSON—What is most important is balance, and this year’s team has got it. Our line up is composed of 3 drivers (speed) and 3 utility players (strength). Speed can break down an opponent over the course of a game. However you absolutely need strength in your lineup to combat the types of teams that like to play set offense.
Q—This will be the second year in the new Canyonview West pool. What differences have you noticed compared to the original Canyonview?
WILLIAMSON—The new pool is terrific, it has much nicer stands, decks, locker rooms, and the pool itself is nice to play in. The stands help bring the student body in to give us support and thereby the home court advantage. It feels great to participate in a new facility and we are so appreciative to have it.
Q—How does UCSD’s home game environment match-up against what you find at road venues?
WILLIAMSON—UCSD crowd is unlike any other across the nation. It was pivotal in beating UCLA last year. The crowd is larger and louder than any other. Other UCSD teams come out and cheer. It makes us proud to play in front of all our friends here at UCSD. Home court advantage can be huge as it tends to intimidate our opponents and really pumps us up.
Q—Given the youth of this year’s squad, how would you rate UCSD’s chances in the Western Water Polo Assn.?
WILLIAMSON—I think that we have all the tools to win. We just need to train hard and execute when the time comes.
WILLIAMSON—UCSD is also a great academic school. We have family and family friends in
Q—You’re a Management Science major. What are some of the most interesting classes you’ve taken at UCSD and what do you plan to do with your degree?
WILLIAMSON—My classes in Corporate Finance were the best. I hope to do something in investment banking/finance.
Q—Besides playing water polo, what do you enjoy most about UCSD?
WILLIAMSON—The friendships I’ve developed both in and out of sports in an academic environment will be lasting. I enjoyed learning to live on my own. The UCSD community has been and continues to be a wonderful growing experience. It really has prepared me to move on.
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