Terps Water Polo Gearing Up For 2008
Jan. 11, 2008
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Carl Salyer is watching his first recruiting class grow up. At every practice and every game, that group of 10 student-athletes who came to the University of Maryland to play water polo for the Terrapins head coach gets just a little better.
This year, those 10 student-athletes are juniors and they make up the bulk of the offense, the strength on defense and half the 20-player roster. This year, as upperclassmen, the fourth-year head coach is hoping the blending of that experienced group with a talented recruiting class will result in what he senses could be a breakout year.
"I think we're coming off a real good year," said Salyer, whose team went 16-18 last year but vastly improved the difficulty of its schedule. "In the last two years, this group has logged a lot of minutes at the Division I level. Our expectations are high. This will be their third season together and we've added a solid group of freshmen.
"I kind of expect a breakthrough year for us. We'll be very competitive for the conference championship. Us and three or four other teams will competing for that."
"If the juniors continue the improvement they had last year and we bring the freshmen along, we'll have some good post players from the freshman class to help inside."
Salyer said one of the keys for the 2008 Terrapins is how quickly the juniors and freshmen can blend into a unit both inside and outside the pool.
"I think the freshmen will learn how to play at this level quickly," said Salyer. "We'll be deep, but sometimes depth doesn't translate to good chemistry. How quickly we develop some team chemistry will be important."
Salyer is hoping the team's growth comes within the framework of the signature effort that his Terrapins teams have become known for.
"We're known for attacking in everything we do - offensively, defensively and on counter-attack," said Salyer. "We want to force the other team's hand and keep them on their heels. Now, we'll be able to throw a fresh set of players out there to wear them down.
"I've got high expectations of this team, both competing on the East coast and nationally," he said. "By the end of the year, we want to be the team that won't be a surprise when we pull off some upsets. We've been competitive in the past. Now we want to be formidable."
Junior Rachel Jordan started 34 games for the Terps last year and finished with 49 points. She currently ranks third on Maryland's career points list with 106. "Rachel has two solid years of experience," said Salyer. "We've got some help for her now in some people who will help share the load."
Christen Vagts started in 33 of Maryland's 34 games a year ago and is another of Salyer's talented junior class. Vagts led the Terps with 53 steals last year defending the opponents' inside players. "Christen is probably our most consistent player and is the best defender on the team," said Salyer. "She's tough as nails."
Each of the top scorers return, with junior Elizabeth Hopkins coming off a season in which she led the Terrapins in points with 70. Shannon Simerly is the lone sophomore on the roster and led Maryland with 58 goals and a shooting percentage of .367 a year ago.
Blaise Stanicic is another junior who finished third on the team in 2007 with 59 points.
"With the returnees, we'll be able to focus a lot more on attacking," said Salyer. "Our counter-attack and frontcourt office is good with them. They handle the ball well and shoot well from the outside."
The lone senior on attack is Allie Houseal, who Salyer says is one of the best decision-makers on the team and helps her teammates perform better. Junior Jill Lau is a former walk-on who also adds depth at attack.
Salyer's philosophy is to play many goalkeepers and to go with the player who has the hot hand. Junior Ashleigh Jobson got 11 starts in goal for the Terrapins last year, while senior Anna Gossett had three starts but saw action in 18 games.
"With both of them coming back, they'll be competing for time in the cage," said Salyer. "They both had some solid experience. It's nice to have two solid goalies."