In her final season as a Triton, Sarah Lizotte is leaving her mark on the UC San Diego women’s water polo program with her play in the pool. The Riverside native broke the individual UCSD single-season records for goals scored (92) and assists (67) in 2013, being named the NCAA Division II Player of the Year and WWPA Player of the Year in the process, and has continued to build on her legacy in 2014. At the Triton Invitational on Feb. 8-9, Lizotte broke the UCSD all-time career scoring and assists records in front of the home crowd at Canyonview Aquatic Center. She has scored 282 career goals to pass UCSD Hall of Fame member, Olympic silver medalist and former captain of the U.S. national team Julie Swail’s record of 245. Lizotte also eclipsed Jamie Dailey’s mark of 125 assists to put her total at 155.
“There’s an intangible across sports lines that is uncoachable,” says head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. “Sarah has it. It’s the ability to get open, have the guts to take the chance, and have the ability to finish it.”
The Tritons, ranked No. 13 currently, are looking to return to the NCAA Championship for the second straight year. After playing 18 straight games away from home, UCSD returns to Canyonview Aquatic Center this Sunday, March 23 to face No. 3 Stanford at 1 p.m.
Q: You returned everyone in 2014 from a team that finished sixth at the NCAA Championship last season. How has that made a difference this year in the water? How will that experience last year translate going forward for the group as a whole?
LIZOTTE: I think it has made a tremendous difference and that was evident with how we began our season. When we return a group of girls who have already played an entire season with one another, we get the ball rollin’ quickly. With our win against ASU, we immediately had a target on our backs and we were recognized as a team who could definitely compete in the top 10. This has been true thus far and we continue to fight against top 10 teams.
Q: You opened the year with four straight wins at the UCSB Winter Invite, including a win over then ranked No. 5 Arizona State, how did that set the tone for the 2014 season going forward?
LIZOTTE: Beating ASU our first weekend of game play was huge for us. We knew that by beating them we would have a huge target on our backs, and we have. No win is an upset anymore for us. We can compete with anyone in the top 10 and we need to play that way.
Q: This season you’ve already played 16 games against ranked opponents, including seven wins, and reached as high as No. 6 in the nation. How will this help as postseason approaches as you begin to face top-ranked teams?
LIZOTTE: By playing games like these, we prepare ourselves nicely for conference and potentially the NCAA tournament. Difficult back-to-back games like this kind of take a toll on us but set us up for a great postseason. This is where we will have the opportunity to hone in on some of our weaknesses and focus a little more time and attention on those aspects.
Q: You’ve also played 18 games away from Canyonview Aquatic Center. How has being on the road helped you grow as a team? One road trip that comes to mind is the Lewisburg, Pa., experience after being stuck in Chicago and being forced to take a 10-hour bus ride to reach your destination.
LIZOTTE: Dark side...had to drive 10 hours from Chicago to Pennsylvania. Bright side...my team is awesome. No but really, plans change and you have to adjust. As a team, it forces us to recognize and learn how to deal with these unexpected situations.
Q: Last year, you were named the NCAA Division II Player of the Year while setting UCSD single-season records for goals (92) and assists (67). What did that mean to you as an athlete and all the hard work you’ve put in over your career?
LIZOTTE: This was a great feat in my career here at UCSD. I’m honored to be recognized with the best that have come through this program. Every year I have had to overcome different struggles and I have been forced to make adjustments with my play. I’m happy to say that these adjustments have payed off for myself, but more importantly the success of my team. My team allows me to excel in the water and I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for them.
Q: This season you put yourself in a category of being one of the greatest to ever compete in the pool for UCSD. You broke the school’s all-time career record for goals, surpassing former Olympic silver medalist and captain of the U.S. national team Julie Swail’s record of 245 goals. You had the opportunity to meet her this year as she was inducted into the UCSD Hall of Fame as well, what was the experience like to talk with her? Where does this record rank in your water polo career?
LIZOTTE: So, I actually met Julie when I had broken her record, “Goals in a Season”, my sophomore year and this was a really awesome experience. I met her on a pool deck (naturally) along with her coach at the time, Denny Harper. Julie brought her silver medal that she earned at the Olympics and I was able to see and wear it. Julie is truly a remarkable person and athlete and I feel honored to be recognized alongside of her.
Q: How has your coach, Brad Kreutzkamp, helped you develop over your career here at UCSD?
LIZOTTE: When I came into this program, Brad promised that if I was willing to put forth the maximum effort and work that I had the potential to do great things. Brad has never restricted me in any way, he has let me just play the game that I love. He sees my sincere passion for my sport and I am very thankful for this.
Q: Being a student-athlete here at UCSD takes a lot of hard work. What has been the most challenging thing about being a student-athlete? The most rewarding part?
LIZOTTE: Being a student athlete at UCSD is definitely hard work. The work load on top of the time commitment to your sport can be challenging. Finding time for other things outside of water polo or school work is definitely the most challenging part, but I think it is more than necessary. I believe that enjoying what you do in your sport and with school has a lot with how you allocate your free time. You have to find time to have some fun!
Q: You hold a blackbelt in karate. What age did you receive it? And how has this translated into the water?
LIZOTTE: I received my blackbelt when I was 11 I think? I continued the sport for a few years after receiving my 1st degree blackbelt. Following this I took a year of Krav maga, which was an intensive self-defense course. When I made these decisions I had no idea it could impact how I play polo. I definitely think it has helped me become a more skilled player. The physical aspect of this sport is imperative, especially for someone my size. I need to have some type of advantage, so I feel like my training in karate has shown me to recognize these advantages. For instance, using someones poor body positioning to gain an advantage.
Q: When you’re not playing water polo, what do you enjoy doing the most?
LIZOTTE: Hmmm...there’s not much I do besides water polo, to be honest. But when I’m not playing water polo or at school, I enjoy being with my friends. My best friends happen to be my teammates...I clearly just can’t get enough. I really do have supportive and loving people in my life, I am very blessed.
Q: You are a documented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan. Who is your favorite Angel? And you’re also a Los Angeles Lakers fan. Should I not even bring up the Lakers after this season’s showing?
LIZOTTE: My favorite current Angel is Mike Trout...BEAST. I’m not a huge fan of baseball, I just grew up watching and going to Angels games a ton because of how close I live to the stadium. So naturally, I grew to become a fan. My favorite Angel of all time would have to be Vladdy (Vladimir Guerrero), one of the most exciting players I’ve ever had the opportunity to see. As I am answering these, the Lakers are currently losing to the Spurs by 30, so let’s just leave it at that. They have seen better days.
Q: Who has been your greatest influence throughout your lifetime?
LIZOTTE: My greatest influence would have to be my dad, hands down. My dad has been my biggest supporter since FOREVER! He has truly allowed me to excel in every aspect of my life and I am so unbelievably grateful. THANK YOU DADDY! I LOVE YOU!
Q: Head coach Brad Kreutzkamp has called you another coach in the water, and you have assisted at the high school level. Do you see yourself as a coach in the future?
LIZOTTE: As for now, I love coaching and bringing my water polo knowledge to others because it truly makes me happy. Coaching long term is not something that I have really considered, but I do enjoy this aspect of the game.
Q: You’re a communication major with a minor in business. What are your plans, hopes as far as a postgraduate career? Would you like to continue to play water polo professionally?
LIZOTTE: This is probably the question of the year! I really hope to pursue my business degree and maybe look into a career in sports marketing, management, or broadcasting. As far as water polo goes, I’m always going to have a love for the game, there is just no running from it. I am looking very heavily into pursuing my career in polo after my time here at UCSD, but I am taking it one step at a time.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Nicholas Korth (Men's Swimming) March 2, 2014
Megan Perry (Women's Basketball) January 13, 2014
Sandy Hon (Women's Swimming) December 30, 2013
Drew Dyer (Men's Basketball) November 26, 2013
Kameron Cooper (Women's Volleyball) October 28, 2013
Rachel Leslie (Women's Soccer) October 9, 2013
Marie Diaz (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field) October 1, 2013
Joe Dietrich (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2013
Josh Cohen (Men's Soccer) August 23, 2013
Sara McCutchan (Women's Volleyball) August 9, 2013
Kellen Levy (Men's Cross Country/Track & Field) July 26, 2013
Izzy Pozurama (Women's Soccer) July 8, 2013
Colin Truex (Women's Crew Head Coach) June 28, 2013