2010 Season Preview: Gaucho Women's Water Polo

Jan. 22, 2010

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The women's collegiate water polo season is upon us, and the UC Santa Barbara women's water polo team is preparing for excellence.

"The women have been working really hard and are in great shape," said head coach Wolf Wigo. "We're well ahead of where we were last year at this point.

"We want to improve from last year when we finished on a really strong note."

In 2009, the Gauchos were tied for last place in conference going into the Big West Tournament. After a solid run through the conference tournament, the women emerged as the second-place team, falling only to UC Irvine in the Big West Championship game.

The Gauchos' head coach, Olympian, Wolf Wigo, will be in his second year at the helm of the women's water polo team. Wigo is also the head coach of the men's water polo team.

After improving by 11 wins from the 2008 to the 2009 season and experiencing success in the Big West Tournament, this year UCSB is eyeing a Big West Championship.

The 2010 Gauchos are also looking to improve upon their final ranking from the previous year, in which the team finished ranked 15th in the nation after going 17-12 overall.

Losing Gillian Morgan - who posted a school record 83 goals in 2009 - and the team's top defender, Amanda Tipton, to graduation, the 2010 team will look to fill these gaps with a strong core of returning players and what looks to be a promising set of additions to the Gaucho family.

"Balance is the key for us this year," Wigo said. "We're looking for a lot of balance in goals and assists, as well as strong goalkeeping."

Goalkeepers
This year UCSB will turn to a returning junior and a true freshman to compete for the chance to manage the goal for the Gauchos. Junior Chelsea Carrillo and freshman Ruth Milne are each strong options at goalkeeper.

Carrillo, the Gauchos 2009 starter, returns to the goal this year for her junior season. In 2009, she started 15 games, tallying 135 saves and averaging 7.9 saves per game with a 9.1 goals against average. She also posted 13 saves in the sudden victory overtime win over top-seeded Cal State Northridge during the Big West Championships Semifinal.

Competing with Carrillo for starts in the cage will be the highly-touted Milne from, Redwood City, Calif., who looks to make an immediate impact for UCSB.

Two-Meters
The Gauchos enter to 2010 season with a solid group of experienced veterans at two-meters.

Senior Lizzie Rouleau is perhaps the top returning player on the team, coming off of a strong 2009 campaign in which she was second on the team with 35 goals and played in all 29 games for the Gauchos.

"Lizzie is a strong, physical player who scores a lot of goals and creates real problems for the opposition's defense," Wigo said.

Claire Buchanan returns for her junior season with the Gauchos.

"Claire is a very fast, mobile player who can put the ball away," Wigo said.

In 2009, Buchanan was third on the team with 28 goals, tied for first on the squad with 19 steals and also handed out seven assists.

Kristin Kulakowski, a returning junior has already proved to be a "force to be reckoned with." Kulakowski notched 15 goals, two assists and three steals in the 2009 season.

Also expected to make and a major impact is sophomore Elle Quane, at the utility position. In 2009, Quane scored eight goals as a true freshman, including a season-high three in a 15-10 win over Cal Baptist (Mar. 4). Wigo noted that Elle is a "tremendous outside shooter and can also post-up."

Defenders
The Gaucho defense will be lead by a pair of experienced and versatile juniors; Jillian Waldron and Kathryn Nelson, who have proven to be defensive standouts as well offensive weapons.

"Nelson at utility is our primary guard but can also set on the offensive end as well," Wigo said.

In 2009, Nelson tallied 16 goals, 12 steals and five assists and also recorded five field blocks, good enough for second on the team.

Waldron played in all 29 games during the Gauchos' 2009 season. In that time she tallied 14 goals and had a season-high two goals on three occasions.

Katie Zakula returns as a redshirt freshman and a complement to the defense.

"Katie has a ton of talent, is a strong fast player and we're hoping this will be a year when she earns a lot of minutes," Wigo said.

Attackers
On the perimeter, the Gauchos have both experience and depth.

Christie Clark returns for her junior year as the Gauchos top attacker. Before redshirting in 2009, she posted 44 goals in 2008, including an 11-game scoring streak, making her second on the team in scoring that year. Clark also ranks 14th all-time amongst Gaucho career goal leaders with 79.

"Christie is a dynamic player who knows how to find an opening in the goal and put it away, and she's going to cause a lot of teams problems," Wigo said.

Katie Kepner is a returning junior and described as the "quarterback of the team" by Wigo. Kepner played in all 29 contests during her sophomore campaign, led the squad with 22 assists and tied for fifth on the team with a total of 16 goals.

"Katie can put the ball in the cage, but is always finding the open player," Wigo said.

Taylor Byrne earned her spot as a starter in the 2009 season, in which she had two goals, six assists and 12 steals. In 2010 she returns as a senior captain.

"Taylor is a fast, smart, player and we'll be relying on her for leadership," Wigo said.

Michelle Beaudreau returns as a junior after posting three goals and an assist for the Gauchos in 2009.

"Michelle is a smart player that sees the field of play well," Wigo said. "Hopefully she can contribute for us."

Alexa Fuller is redshirt freshman playing utility for the Gauchos this year. Described as a "strong shooter," Fuller will look to earn minutes as the season progresses.

Newcomers
The Gauchos also welcome 10 true freshmen to the active roster this year:

Adding depth to the goalkeeper position will be Sarah Zuziak from Laguna Beach, Calif.

"Sarah has a lot of potential," Wigo said. "This year will be a huge benefit to her."

Kacey Creek will be work to earn time as a defender.

"Kacey is a great, fast, all-around player, who can also guard two-meters," Wigo said.

Shelby Haroldson joins the team as an attacker. Wigo said, "Shelby is an extremely fast player, has a great shot, and is projected to start this year. We hope to see great things from her."

Selina Rivera and Nancy Ruano, who played together with the Commerce club team, join the Gauchos as attackers and will look to spell Kepner.

"Both have tremendous experience and come from a great club system," Wigo said.

Sonja Stankovic comes to UCSB from Belgrade, Serbia, where competed for the Serbian Senior National and Junior National teams.

Kate Berry, from Newport Beach Calif., earned Second Team All-PCL honors as a senior, and competed for the SoCal Water Polo Club. She looks to earn her way into the rotation as an attacker.

Bryce Winton comes to UCSB from Chino, Calif., and was a member of the third-place team at the 2009 National Junior Olympics.

Rachel Nelson, from Lompoc, Calif., was a three-time All-CIF Division IV pick.

Liz Branch hails from Camarillo, Calif., where she was a First Team All-CIF Division IV selection in 2008-09.

Megan Calderazzo, a two-time high school All-American from Danville, Calif., joins the team, adding depth to the center position.

Shaye Huggins joins the Gauchos from Oceanside, Calif. where she was a First Team All-Palomar League selection and Second Team All-CIF Division I San Diego Section.

The Schedule
The Gauchos will open the 2010 season with the Gaucho Mini Tournament on January 23 at UCSB. The Gauchos will face Cal State Bakersfield at 11 am at the Recreation Center Pool and Pamona-Pitzer College at 4 pm at Campus Pool.

Next, UCSB will travel to Berkeley Calif. for the Northern California Invitational on January 29 and 30.

The Gauchos will then play in UC San Diego's Triton Invitational on February 5-6, before traveling to Irvine to play in the UCI Invitational on February 27 and 28.

The Gauchos begin Big West Conference play at home against Long Beach State and UC Irvine, on April 2 and 3, respectively, then facing Cal State Northridge the following Saturday.

UCSB will wrap up its conference schedule at UC Davis and Pacific on April 17 and 18.

During the weekend of April 23-25 the Gauchos will compete in the second Big West Conference Championship, hosted this year by Long Beach State.

The 2010 UCSB women's water polo team has received a No. 15 preseason national ranking in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Top-20 Coaches Poll. UCSB is looking to build upon a its 2009 finish and rise within the rankings. To do so conference play will be crucial.

"Big West games are the most important," Wigo said. "We have a very balanced conference and anyone can beat anyone."

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