Feb. 8, 2007
After graduating just one key player the past two years, the Brown women's water polo team is set to make a run at the Eastern Championship. Head Coach Jason Gall is excited about his team's chances, saying the team has only gotten better after finishing third at the Northern Championships and sixth at Easterns last season. Others agree, ranking Brown at #20 in the preseason Top 20, and placing the team fourth in the most recent CWPA Poll.
This year's senior class has been a strong one, serving as the core of the team for three years. All four - Claire Angyal (Sydney, Australia), Elizabeth Balassone (Los Altos, CA), Caitlin Fahey (Seattle, WA), and Paige Lansing (Newport Beach, CA) - will serve as the team's captains this season. Lansing led the Bears in scoring last season with 48 goals, sporting a great shot from the perimeter. She was also second on the squad in assists (20), and steals (29). Balassone has been a mainstay at two-meter offense. She led the team in ejections (45) and field blocks (3), and was second in goals (43). A force when she gets position in the post, Balassone led the Bears with 13 goals in CWPA regular season contests. Fahey mans the post on the other end of the pool as one of the strongest two-meter defenders on the East Coast. Her 36 steals were tops on the team in 2006, while her 23 assists and 29 goals, indicative of her improving offensive skills, were second and fourth, respectively. She also could see time at two-meter offense to spell Balassone. Rounding out the senior quartet is Angyal, who will be counted on for increased production after impressing in early practices. Angyal had 10 goals, nine assists and 11 steals in her 2006 campaign.
One of the Bears' key strengths this season will be in their depth, as the length of quarters has been extended to eight minutes for the 2007 season. Junior Alexis Blaxberg (Miami, FL) and sophomore Rory Stanton (Danville, CA) will spell Balassone and Fahey in their respective two-meter positions, and as serve as key players on the perimeter. Blaxberg was fifth on the team with 25 goals, stepping up to second on the team with 11 in CWPA games. Her quicker, reflex-based skill set contrasts Balassone's power game nicely at two-meter offense, where she drew 30 ejections in 2006. Stanton, a starter last season, is the second option at two-meter defense. She was second on the squad with 33 ejections drawn last year, also tallying 20 goals and 20 assists.
All three players in the freshman class should step in and see plenty of time. Just like the Brown men in the fall, the women will have a freshman goalkeeper - Stephanie Laing (Ann Arbor, MI). Laing was a two-time First Team All-District and Second Team All-State at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, and Gall says the team in confident with her in the cage despite her lack of collegiate experience.
The two freshmen out in the field, Sarah Glick (Bonita, CA) and Lauren Presant (Poway, CA), will step in and play right away. Glick was a four-time All-Mesa League Team honoree, earning the league's Player of the Year award her junior year and First Team All-CIF her senior year. Her hard, accurate shot might already be the best on the team. Presant, also an All-CIF recipient last year, may not possess as accurate a shot as Glick, but makes up for that in pure power, giving her the hardest shot on the squad.
Junior Ally Wyatt (Ypsilanti, MI) will likely step into the starting lineup when she returns to the team after swim season is over. Despite missing the first nine games last season, Wyatt led the Bears with 26 assists. Fellow junior Emily Schwartz (Miami, FL), who had 13 goals and 14 assists in her sophomore season, possesses one of the best perimeter shots on the team despite her 5-2 frame.
Also competing for time in the rotation will be junior Roxanne Palmer (Los Alamitos, CA) and sophomores Kristin Cuthbertson (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) and Alexandra Ferguson (Seattle, WA). Palmer possesses solid skills and a great knowledge of the game, and Cuthbertson and Ferguson both gained valuable experience their freshman year and will look to continue improving in their second go-round.
The Bears will play a tough national schedule. Brown will face no fewer than eight ranked teams, with match-ups against #6 San Diego State, #7 UC-Irvine, #11 Loyola Marymount, #13 Michigan, #15 Long Beach State, #17 UC-San Diego, #19 Cal State-Bakersfield and CWPA rival #14 Hartwick. Possible match-ups with #18 Princeton and #20 Indiana also loom at the ECAC and Eastern Championships.
This weekend, Brown opens its season at home with the Ivy Tournament, where it'll play a combination of club and varsity teams. That will be followed by a home match-up with regional rival Hartwick on Feb. 24 to open the CWPA season. The following weekend will be the ECAC Championship, held at Harvard. After the Bears' final home game on March 14 against the Crimson, the team will hit the road for the Wolverine Invitational at Michigan.
Gall and the Bears will spend Spring Break in California, competing at the Aztec Invitational and playing at a host of the Golden State's best. The Bears will finish with five CWPA contests on the road before competing at the Northern and Eastern Championships.