Twelfth-ranked Tritons receive top national honors

UCSD men’s water polo head coach Denny Harper was named 2004 Division II Coach of the Year by the American Water Polo Coaches Association on Dec. 29, while junior driver Chris Eichholz and junior two-meter man Chris Finegold both earned a spot on the Division II All-American first team.

After reaching a record of 20-12 in the fall, Harper successfully navigated the Tritons to 20 wins for the third time in five years.

“[Harper] did a great job,” Finegold said. “He always does a great job.”

The honor is nothing new to Harper, who has garnered three, Division III Coach of the Year awards and a Division I and II Coach of the Year honor in his 25-year tenure at UCSD. In that time, he has accumulated a 429-329-4 record — a .566 average.

Finegold, who was also named to the All-Western Water Polo Association First Team at the end of 2004, wrapped up the season with 36 goals — the third most on the team.

“It was a good year,” Finegold said. “I got more playing time, and that gave me more confidence. Plus I spent most of last year playing two-meter defense and this year I was playing offense most of the time.”

On Oct. 24, Finegold tied the single-game-ejections-drawn record of seven in a loss to Stanford. He tied the mark set by Jason Brown (in 1991 against UCLA) and by current UCSD women’s water polo coach Larry Sanders (in a 1986 match against Loyola-Chicago).

“Even though things didn’t turn out [as well as they could have], it worked out for the younger guys who got more playing time,” Finegold said. “Next year we want to win conference and do as well as we can at [the NCAA tournament].”

Eichholz tied freshman driver Adnan Jerkovic for the most goals scored during the 2004 season with 48, and was named a member of the All-WWPA First Team.

Coming off the bench during his sophomore season, Eichholz was credited with 12 goals.

“The experience has helped a lot,” Eichholz said. “I feel a lot more comfortable in the water, and with my whole game awareness.”

Prior to playing for UCSD, the Las Vegas native got his start in the pool as a swimmer.

“I swam competitively from when I was about seven till I was 12,” Eichholz said. “Then the mom of one of the guys on the team met our club coach. We were the only club water polo team in Vegas.”

Before redshirting with the Tritons in his first year at UCSD, Eichholz played a season under head coach Brian Harvey at Grossmont College in San Diego.

Reflecting on the 2004 season, which ended sourly in a devastating quarter-final loss at the WWPA Championships to Redlands, Eichholz’s sentiments are predictable.

“It was disappointing,” he said “It was a really good season, and there was more to the season than the end.”