Although 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 college level.
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
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 it.
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 harder.
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 Championships.
were your feelings when you found out that Canyonview was going to be
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
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.
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