2012 Cal State Northridge Women's Water Polo Season Preview

The 2012 Cal State Northridge Women's Water Polo Outlook
By Monique Muniz, Media Relations Intern

Coming off a 21-16 record last season, the Cal State Northridge women's water polo team looks ahead to building a stronger program with a fresh young squad this 2012 season.

Northridge starts the season against CSU Bakersfield (11:15 a.m.) at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational (Jan. 28-29) in Santa Barbara. The Matadors play UCSB at 3:35 p.m.

Last season head coach Marcelo Leonardi added 10 freshmen to his squad and he continued to add more young talent to the Matadors roster this season.

"The ten freshmen I added last year played a lot particularly Missy (Doll) and Lindsy (Nelson) who both started as freshmen," said Leonardi. "This season we added more freshmen. This is the first time we have had two consecutive recruiting classes that come in with experience."

CSUN will have six freshmen and eight sophomores to start the 2012 year. That includes one of the top freshmen recruits in the nation in center Marisa Young. A graduate of Fountain Valley High School, Young gained a significant amount of experience playing for the Huntington Beach Water Polo Club. Among the other five rookies is Kelcie Ferreira (center/defender, Trinidad & Tobago). Ferreira is an all-around player which that allows her to play multiple positions.

"Marisa Young is a center who played really well in the Fall," said Leonardi. "Kelcie Ferreira's skill set allows us to play her at different positions in the water. She will provide the depth needed through the season.  She will play significant minutes for us."

Other talented freshman include Katie Kammer (Attacker, Fullerton, Ca) and Alex Hoetker (Attacker, Fullerton, Ca).  Both are natural scorers who will add depth to CSUN's offensive core.  The Matadors also added goalie Kiernan Davis (goalkeeper, Redlands, Ca) and Kaeli Hanson (Utility, Santa Ynez, Ca).  

The freshmen join a Matadors team that returns five of its top six scorers. Senior Heidi Pettinger is the top returning scorer with 62 goals in 2011. Along with Pettinger are sophomores Lindy Nelson who had 41 goals and Melissa Doll, who tallied 34 in their freshmen campaign, Lone junior Leah Janke emerged as a top scorer last season with 28.

"Heidi (Pettinger) had a fantastic season last year," said Leonardi. "We were young last year and as we went through the growing pains, Heidi held the fort together. I expect Janke and Nelson to play the attacker position. I see both of them having productive seasons. Both players know what to expect and they will continue to provide the perimeter defense and scoring needed for team success."

Other veteran players returning in 2012 include Hayley Gurriell, Molly Henehan, Celena Photopulos, Geneva Capos, Carson Nestler and Jenny Jamison. Chelsea Yox is a redshirt freshman.

"Both Molly Henehan and Celena Photopulos look to have break out season.  They both have improved on their game during the off-season and have chemistry in the water.  Molly will split duties at the center position with Marisa, while Celena is versatile attacker that can play and create on either side of the pool."

In net for the Matadors will be senior Dana Harvey (Auckland, New Zealand). Last year in the cage she collected 202 saves in 23 games for a 9.85 spg, third best in Big West Conference. Kiernan Davis will be backing up Harvey in the nets. Davis has the size, leg strength and arm reach to be a major presence in the cage.

"Kiernan (Davis) has worked well with Dana (Harvey) and they both have elevated their game," said Leonardi. "In the fall they both came in battling for the starting position. Harvey has an edge after her experience playing at CSUN last year as a junior. What I really like is the relationship they have both built. They support each other, feed off each other and make each other better."

Two seasons ago the Matadors had the No. 1 defense in the Big West Conference. Leonardi will look to his defensive line in senior defender Jessica Goforth, who had 36 steals last season. Missy Doll will be a strong contributor to the defense. She had 31 steals last year, third best for the Matadors. Leonardi will also look to freshmen center defender Kelcie Ferreira, who was voted the best defender at 2011 Carifta Championship.

In order to improve on the defense, Leonardi has focused more on the technical components of both perimeter and center defender defense.  These principles have allowed the tactical components of the defense to be more effective.    

The Cal State Northridge schedule in 2012 will include playing eight nationally-ranked universities in their first 11 games.

After 13 games on the road, CSUN will come home to Matador pool, where they posted an unblemished mark of 9-0 last year. They will face Bucknell and Occidental on March 13 before heading back on the road for eight more games.

CSUN will also begin conference play at home against UC Irvine on March 31. The other two home games will be against Long Beach State on April 1 and Cal St. San Bernardino on April 22.

"We have changed several components to how we play the game, physically, mentally, technically, and tactically," said Leonardi  "We want to want to play smart, fundamental water polo. If we maintain our philosophy, work ethic, and culture, I strongly believe we will improve each and every day.  In doing so, we will position ourselves to ultimately play for a conference championship and an NCAA berth."