Women's water polo loses key duo

    In the current world of college sports, it is no longer common to see players mature from their early careers as freshmen into solid, capable senior leaders. In the major sports with professional aspirations, it is even more rare to see such a thing.

    However, for the UCSD women’s water polo team, the desire and determination of two outstanding seniors has led to a remarkable and resurgent growth in the competition of the program.

    Both Emma Kudritzki and Courtney Hemmerly have faced the troubles and frustrations of playing a collegiate sport during their illustrious careers, but they finished their tenures by returning the Tritons to championship-contending form.

    Starting all four years while on the team, Kudritzki and Hemmerly have been consistent and integral to the team’s success. They provided the Tritons with inspiring leadership and plenty of offense, combining for 93 goals this year and 263 goals over the past three seasons. With their experience and insight, both players provided the maturity and work ethic that propelled the Tritons to the Western Water Polo Association conference championship game.

    “”Emma and Courtney were great leaders for the younger players to learn from,”” said junior teammate Danielle Boyle. “”They provided an excellent role model for the team.””

    That they both ended up playing at UCSD is a miracle in itself. Hemmerly began her water polo career at Clairemont High School playing on the men’s team until her senior year, when a women’s team was created. She originally did not plan to attend UCSD, but with the help of former UCSD assistant coach and current San Diego State University head water polo coach Karen Crawford, she was given the opportunity to try out for then-head coach Denny Harper. Harper was sufficiently impressed to help her through late admissions and enroll at UCSD.

    Meanwhile, Kudritzki started her water polo career during high school in Mill Valley, Calif., without any prior experience in swimming. After two years, she began to find her niche in the sport.

    She became interested in UCSD while visiting her brother, who attended the school, but she eventually planned to go to UC Davis. However, one late phone call changed everything.

    “”About an hour before my graduation night, I received a phone call from coach Harper,”” Kudritzki said. “”He told me that there was still a chance that I could go to San Diego, and so I took it.””

    The decision turned out to be a saving grace for the Tritons.

    Kudritzki earned three consecutive all-WWPA selections as well as being recognized as an All-American in 2001. She is ranked fourth all-time at UCSD with 62 goals in one season and is in the top five for career goals.

    Hemmerly consistently improved her goals and assists the past three seasons, and as a senior, finished with career highs in goals (31) and assists (47). She also provided important essentials that led to the continued teamwork and success of the team.

    “”Courtney was a strong leader and had the crucial intangibles that helped [UCSD] play and work together as a team,”” said junior Samara Silverman.

    Playing together the past four years has also formed a special bond between the two stars, as well as their teammates.

    “”[Courtney and I] have become close teammates and friends, and knowing we’ve shared some surreal moments really connected us in a way that’s just hard to describe,”” Kudritzki said. “”I love her to death.””

    Hemmerly agreed, adding, “”We’re best buddies. We’ve been through a lot together and share some great memories.””

    The seniors’ teammates share similar sentiments.

    “”It definitely will be strange not seeing them play with [the team], and being such a close-knit group, I’ll miss them dearly as friends, as well,”” Silverman said.

    Boyle agreed, but remained focused on the upcoming season.

    “”The team has been so close over the last few years that [Hemmerly and Kudritzki] will be very missed,”” she said. “”But we have to look forward and get ready for next season.””

    While both of the seniors look forward to continue playing beyond their college careers, they also have goals set for their bright futures.

    Hemmerly looks to pursue teaching and counseling children, and Kudritzki hopes to get a start in the winery business and perhaps run her own vineyard. However, both admit they will miss the thrill of playing at the competitive level.

    “”The special relationship I formed with my teammates and the passion and desire we all shared is something I’ll really miss,”” Kudritzki said. “”Putting in 110 percent into something for eight years and having it end is like losing a part of yourself.””

    Hemmerly seemed a little more optimistic.

    “”I’ll definitely miss playing,”” she said. “”Watching [the team] play will bring back some old nostalgic memories, but it’s time to move on and I’ll be cheering for them.””

    While the women’s water polo team has lost two assets in Hemmerly and Kudritzki, hopes for next season are still strong with a solid core of returning players burning with desire to show this past season was no fluke.

    “”Losing important players like [Kudritzki and Hemmerly] will probably give the so-called experts reason to yet again underestimate [the team], even though we seem to play better than expected all the time,”” Silverman said. “”We have some great young players on this team and I think we’ll do just fine next year.””

    The future looks promising, but Kudritzki and Hemmerly leave big holes for Sanders and his team to fill. They will be missed and remembered for setting a standard as ideal student-athletes.

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