Men's water polo begins defense of their three straight WWPA titles this weekend at UCSD Invitational.
Sept. 1, 2006
The 2005 season for the Loyola Marymount University men's water polo team was perplexing, according to 10-year Head Coach John Loughran.
"I have never had a team work as hard in practice as last year's squad," said Loughran. "It just took a while for that to translate into success." In the end, it peaked at the right moment as the Lions won their fourth Western Water Polo Association title in five years.
The hard work that typified the LMU program a year ago is back for 2006 as 19 letterwinners return to a team who has a pretty simple goal. "We will work each day and each game to put us in the position to win our fifth WWPA title," said Loughran, who enters his 10th season at LMU. "It is pretty simple."
"In winning four of the last five WWPA titles, we will have a lot of teams gunning for us," said Loughran. "We have to play a lot better in the middle of the season and become more consistent. We can be a good team if we stick to our roles."
Under Loughran the Lions have made a living at winning championships with players who know their roles and play them well. The 2006 season will be no different as they will rely once again on hard work and all-around team play to win yet another title.
"We have more depth this season and our playing rotation has good experience," said Loughran. "They trained as hard as any team I have had this spring and summer. Our strength is our team play and team chemistry. They play very well as a group."
A pair of senior All-Americans will lead the charge in goalie Ian Elliott and two-meter Brian McShane. Elliott, a three-time first-team All-WWPA selection, will anchor the Lions defense and according to Loughran is one of the top goalies in the nation this year.
Elliott will have a pair of seniors helping him on the defensive end with All-WWPA selections Matt Reynolds and Ben Easton. Both earned their first-ever All-WWPA nods a year ago and will combine with Elliott to form one of the tougher defenses in the WWPA.
"Our defense will be led by Ian. Reynolds will be a force at two-meter defense, making Elliott that much better. Easton looks to be developing into a great match-up defender. We have the potential to be a very good defensive team this season."
On offense, McShane is the Lions top scorer returning with 37 goals. The rest of the Lions will have their opportunity as they look to overcome the loss of All-American Endre Rex-Kiss, the second-leading scorer in LMU history with 261, including 72 in 2005.
"It is not a matter of replacing Endre, as he was the type of player you can't replace," said Loughran. "All of our returning players have to score more."
The talent is there for the Lions, as Rex-Kiss is the only scorer not returning among LMU's top-10 a year ago.
McShane proved to be a big game player with his eight goals in three games to win the WWPA tournament, including four goals in the championship game against UC San Diego. His late season push earned him his first All-America honors.
"Brian is in his senior year and showed he can make the big plays in the big games," said Loughran. "He continues to improve and can be a force in the middle. His play at two-meter enables us to run our offense."
McShane, Cutberto Hernadez, Reynolds and Easton rounded the Lions' top-five in scoring. Hernandez, who played for the Mexican National Team this summer, had a breakout season scoring with 29 in 2005. Easton added 25 goals while Reynolds put in 24.
"Cubie's (Hernandez) speed and ability to set up others is really going to help our offense. He has gotten much better in his three years."
Providing that depth for the Lions is a group of second and third-year players. Sophomore Julian Lormant, junior Shaun Flood, sophomore Tim Hummel, redshirt freshman Ryan Fair, junior Scott Langendoen, junior Ryan Gilmore and sophomore Mark Milovic all earned valuable experience that will be key to the Lions defense of their WWPA titles.
"Lormant has developed into a solid two-meter option for us. Flood plays solid perimeter defense and his outside shooting will help. Hummel, Fair, Milovic and Langendoen have greet speed and provide us with a counter attack. We need these players to be big contributors for us," said Loughran.
In addition to the returning players, the Lions have newcomers expected to stepin and give valuable minutes in the pool.
Freshman Andy Stevens could be the Lions' goalie of the future and will gain valuable experience behind the All-American Elliott. Freshman Cody Walter comes from powerful Long Beach Wilson High School and will be given a chance to fill important roles this season. Golden West transfer Rory Kelly gives the Lions additional speed for the counter attack. Freshman Brian Benedetti has the potential to be a standout defender for the Lions.
With talented players both returning and joining the program for the first year, the Lions have the pieces in place to challenge for title No. 5.
- GO LIONS -