Pacific Women's Water Polo Opens 2014 Slate Saturday
University of the Pacific women's water polo team opens the 2014 season Saturday at the California Speedo Cup with games against Cal (11 a.m.) and Stanford (1:30 p.m.).
"We're excited about the season," head coach James Graham said. "We have a much deeper team this year with some freshman who have come in ready to play and players from last season's roster who have developed and improved. We think that the team will be real strong and we're excited about redshirt freshman Meghan Nee in the cage."
Pacific will redshirt All-American Michelle Relton, who had a busy offseason with Team Canada at the 2013 World Aquatics Championship in Barcelona, Spain.
Nee, a redshirt freshmen didn't see action between the pipes last year, as she redshirted the 2013 campaign. She was a First Team All-Big VIII selection in 2011 and 2012 and a Third Team All-CIF pick as a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale.
"We have a much stronger sense of the system and how to play together," Graham continued. "The players are much more experienced with our tactics inside the system. We've been able to hone in on what everyone's strengths are and be able to make the adjustments to find everyone's "correct" position, and how best to utilize our talent. Overall, we're going to be a deeper, stronger team."
"We're expecting a big season out of a few players," said Graham. "Elise Martin has been great for the program and we expect her and Malena Prlain to be the quarterbacks of our offense this year, and to do a great job facilitating our offense and playing great defense."
Prlain scored 22 goals last season for the Tigers, while ranking third on the squad with 29 assists. Martin led Pacific with 68 assists and chipped in 32 goals, which was fourth on the team.
"Offensively, we expect two newcomers who came on the scene last season and did a great job to step-up to another level this year: Taylor Adair and Gracie Smith to have really strong offensive years. Last year, I think they showed their potential, and we're looking forward to seeing them produce this season."
Adair, a junior utility player led the Tigers last year with 54 goals and added 18 assists. Smith, a sophomore two-meter specialist chipped in 40 goals, which was third on the team. Also returning is junior utility Brydie Pye, who was second on the team last season with 50 goals and added 42 assists.
With the breakout success of the Pacific men's team this past season, finishing as the NCAA Runner Up, the obvious question for the Pacific women's program is "Can that success be duplicated on the women's side?" Graham, the 2013 Men's Water Polo Coach of the Year in MPSF addressed the issue as he heads into his second season at the helm of the women's program.
"We definitely believe the program is poised to go in the same direction that the men's program has. Obviously, the big difference is that I've been working with the men's team for six years, and we're in year two with the women. The women's program is just beginning the journey, but we feel we are well on our way. We are running very similar philosophies with both programs, with small adaptations for both the personnel and the small differences between the two games. But overall, we feel we have a well-rounded philosophy in place that will be successful and have the women's program on the same track as our men's program."
Pacific returns 11 players from last season's 16-16 squad and will participate in the new conference this season, as the Tigers join the new Golden Coast Conference with Azusa Pacific, Cal Baptist, Fresno Pacific, Loyola Marymount, San Diego State, and Santa Clara. The Tigers went 4-1 last season against the other six members of the GCC last year.