In four seasons as head coach of the Cal State Northridge women's water polo program, head coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi has consistently moved the Matadors into the national spotlight ... in the pool and also in the classroom.
Three 20-win seasons in four years as head coach has increased Dr. Leonardi's overall record to 91-56 overall. The 91 wins included a school record 28 wins in 2010, 21 wins in 2011, and 23 wins in 2013. In the last four years, the Matadors have been nationally-ranked every season against a highly competitive schedule that includes competition against other nationally-ranked squads.
Six players under Dr. Leonardi's coaching
talents have won All-American honors eight times. That includes
Jenny Jamison (2012), Lindsy Nelson (2013) and
Marisa Young (2013) who will be among the top
players on the 2014 team that will again be nationally-ranked and a
contender for top honors in the very competitive Big West
Under Dr. Leonardi's direction, nine players have won Big West Conference honors ten times. In 2010, Jillian Stapf, considered the greatest goalkeeper in Matador history, was named Big West Player of the Year in 2010. In 2010, Cal State Northridge chalked up a 28-8 record. The 28 wins is a school record.
In the classroom, academic success has been as strong as the accomplishments in the pool under Dr. Leonardi's direction. Twenty-four players have earned Academic All-American honors 38 times. A total of 18 players have won Big West Conference All-Academic honors 26 times.
Nationally, Cal State Northridge has chalked up one of the highest GPA's as a team along with such notable schools as Stanford and Harvard.
"I am very proud and excited to be the head coach of the women's water polo program at Cal State Northridge," said Dr. Leonardi. "We have built a strong academic and athletic water polo program at CSUN. This is a priority; to be strong in the pool and in the classroom."
Marcelo Leonardi, Ed.D, began the 2009-10 school year as the "interim" head coach of the Cal State Northridge women's water polo team. Based on the tremendous success of the team in 2010, the word "interim" was deleted from his title. Dr. Leonardi was ofifically named the "head coach" of the nationally-ranked women's water polo program at Cal State Northridge on June 16, 2010.
"Dr. Leonardi has brought Cal State Northridge to incredible heights on the national landscape during his head coaching tenure," said Dr. Brandon Martin, CSUN's Director of Athletics. "Every year, he has brought success in the pool and the classroom. Congratulations to the CSUN water polo program."
Dr. Leonardi was given the interim head coaching position shortly after the school year started in 2009-10. His accomplishments did not go unnoticed. Expectations were high at the start of the 2010 season. Nearly all the goals were met - a school record 28 wins (28-8), a first place showing in the Big West Conference regular season, and a national ranking of ninth, the highest ranking in school history. Team and individual school records were broken including wins (28), single season goals (371), single season assists (347), career saves by senior goalkeeper Jillian Stapf (1,305) and single season goals by sophomore Whitney Delgado (80).
During the 2010 season, five Matador players earned All-Big West honors including League Player of the Year Jillian Stapf, and first team selections Whitney Delgado and Sydney Sonoda. Four Cal State Northridge players finished in the Top-10 in career goals including Whitney Delgado (#5, 109 goals), Chelsea Curran (#8, 91 goals), Sydney Sonoda (#9, 90 goals) and Kirra Kylander (#10, 88 goals).
During the 2011 season, Cal State Northridge, under Dr. Leonardi's tenure, chalked up a 21-16 record and finished the year ranked 15th in the nation.
Following a 19-win season and another nationally-ranked campaign
in 2012, the Matadors won 23 games in 2014. Once again Cal State
Northridge was ranked nationally.
In 2014, the Matadors will field a team that will again challenge for top honors in the Big West Conferene and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Dr. Leonardi has also gained national and international experience as a member of the United States National Youth Water Polo staff.
During the summer in 2013, the United States Women's Youth National Water Polo team (18-and-under) capped a perfect run at the UNANA Youth Pan American Championship with a 10-6 victory over Canada to claim the gold medal. Dr. Leonardi was a member of the winning USA coaching staff.
"Winning gold and hearing your national anthem being played is always special," said Dr. Leonardi. "Helping guide and mold young talented athletes in their first international tournament is exciting. Being part of Team USA is an honor."
Also during the summer of 2013, Leonardi assumed additional duties as the United States Olympic Development Program (ODP) Girls National Technical Director. Leonardi oversees the implementation of training for all females in the Olympic Development Program nationwide in addition to competition at the National Training and Selection Camps.
Leonardi also served as an assistant coach for the USA Women's Junior National team where it competed at the 2011 World Championships in Tieste, Italy.
He also received an award as the top Olympic Development Program coach for the Southern Region.
Before his head coaching responsibilities at CSUN, Leonardi served the previous four seasons (2006-09) as a Matador assistant coach.
Before arriving at Cal State Northridge, Dr. Leonardi served as head coach of the El Rancho High School's water polo and swim programs for six years. Under his leadership, the Dons won the Del Rio League water polo titles in 2003 and 2004.
During the 2004 season, Dr. Leonardi coached the Dons to the CIF Division III championship game. For his efforts, Dr. Leonardi was named the CIF Division III Coach of the Year. Also in 2004, Dr. Leonardi coached El Rancho HS to the league title in swimming.
Also among Dr. Leonardi's coaching highlights include being named Coastal California Women's National Youth Zone Coach (2003-05), Top 40 women's Speedo Head Coach for Team Graffiti in 2004 and founder, director and coach for the El Rancho Water Polo Club (2002-09).
Dr. Leonardi has also coached several age group clubs in recent years. Dr. Leonardi was selected as the San Gabriel Valley Women's All-Star water polo coach three times, as well as the SGV women's water polo district coach in 2004.
Dr. Leonardi graduated from Whittier College in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in Biology and Spanish. In 2001, Dr. Leonardi earned his master's degree in Education. Two years later, Dr. Leonardi added a teaching credential in Biology/Life Sciences. Dr. Leonardi completed his Ed.D in Leadership at Azusa Pacific in 2011.