New players lead No. 12 UCSD

    Men’s water polo promises another exciting season as head coach Denny Harper returns to the deck of Canyonview Pool for his 24th season leading UCSD. Last year’s team posted a 19-10-0 record that carried it to a frustrating 6-5 loss in the final game of the Western Water Polo Association Championship against rival Loyola Marymount University.

    Harper, whose knowledge of the sport is emphasized by his 409-317-4 career record, has guided the Tritons to the NCAA Final Four in nine of the past 12 seasons, including UCSD’s first-ever Division II team berth in the final match of the tournament in 2000, following a 9-8 upset over No. 2 USC in the semifinals. Harper has earned the undeniable respect of players and coaches around the league with his reception of the WWPA Coach of the Year honor on 14 occasions.

    The 2004 season should be brimming with surprises from this young team. Although last year’s squad only saw two seniors graduate, seven of the most influential players from that group opted to red shirt this year in favor of saving their last year of NCAA eligibility for next season, when several of the team’s younger players will have had the opportunity to develop over this season, giving the Tritons a better shot at the NCAA Championship.

    Seniors Kevin Smoker, Brandon Borso, Jonathan Hopkins, Clark Petersen, Travis Boettner, Steven Jendrusina and junior goalie Jeremy Randall will practice with the team but will not compete until the 2005 season. Hopkins was named the 2004 WWPA Most Valuable Player and was named to the First Team All-WWPA squad with Borso, while Petersen and junior goalie Colin McElroy earned Second-Team All-WWPA honors.

    Each of last season’s six red shirt athletes have been activated, as have two additional freshman players, so the depth of the Triton squad has not been compromised by this season’s unorthodox reconfiguration. However, the team will be seeking new leadership from the upperclassmen who remain in action for this season, including the one eligible senior, Nate Cooper.

    The Tritons started their characteristically masochistic hell weeks in mid-August to prepare to host their own season-opening UCSD Triton Invitational tournament on Sept. 4 and Sept. 5. After promising wins over UC Davis and Pomona-Pitzer on Sept. 4, UCSD succumbed to UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara on Sept. 5, splitting the tournament 2-2.

    At the Inland Empire Tournament over the weekend of Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, the Tritons bounced back from their losses to mount a 4-0 tournament record with wins over Occidental, Santa Clara, Whittier and tournament host Redlands, bringing the team’s overall record to 8-4.

    The month of September is packed with tournament action for the Tritons, who competed in the USC Tournament on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 and will travel north for the UC Santa Cruz Slug Fest on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26.

    The Tritons placed seventh in the USC tournament, which included 14 of the top 20 teams in the nation. UCSD went 2-2 in the tournament with upset wins over No. 7 Long Beach State and No. 10 UC Santa Barbara and losses to No. 1 Stanford and to No. 6 Pepperdine.

    UCSD begins its conference schedule on Sept. 30 at UC Davis, then returns home for a six-game home stand between Oct. 15 and Nov. 5, including matches against rivals Loyola Marymount, Stanford, UC Irvine and Pepperdine.

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