Under the guidance of first-year head coach Pat Beemer, the men’s water polo is looking to gel a diverse group of returners and newcomers.
The Beavers return nine individuals who have contributed in previous seasons. In addition to that experience, the program welcomes six athletes who bring solid high school credentials to the program, but will need to adapt to the collegiate game quickly.
“We have done a lot of growing during the pre-season,” said Beemer. “We have shown flashes of solid play that gives me great optimism but we still have a lot of room for improvement as we strive to reach our potential this season.”
Two sophomores will be looked to after providing stellar performances during their first season on-campus. Jim Blackwood was the team’s third leading scorer last year after finding the back of the cage 38 times while dishing out a Caltech best 38 assists. Patric Eck was just as effective in 2012 as he scored 34 goals while registering a team best 35 steals.
“Jim and Patric had quite a first season but I think they can do more in the pool,” Beemer said. “Both of them have a tremendous upside and I’m really interested to see how they move forward.”
CJ Culpepper came in off the bench on a regular basis in 2012. The junior chipped in four goals while swiping 12 steals.
“CJ’s experience will help our team in many facets of the game. I really expect him to contribute solid minutes whether they start the game or come in off the bench,” Beemer said.
A four-some of juniors and a sophomore round out of the returning position players. Matthew Lappin, Matthew Cedeno, Austin Mayron and Jerome Skelly will vie for increased playing time in 2013. Galen Gao had a productive first-year campaign last year and will look to contribute once again as a reserve this season.
In front of the goal for a third straight season is Ben Grabowski. The three-sport athlete has started in goal since coming to Caltech in 2011 after never playing deep-end water polo prior to coming to Caltech.
“Ben is a really good athlete who is still adapting to the game of water polo and if he reaches his full potential he could be an all-conference player,” Beemer said. “The four returning juniors have been playing well and they will certainly compete for playing time with the group of newcomers.”
The six first-year players have a wealth of high school and club experience. Jordan Bonilla and Tomas Tussie went to the state finals in Florida on three occasions at Cypress Bay High School. Connor Lee was named an all-league performer at nearby Arcadia High School. In addition to that trio, Chris Bradley was a four-year player and one of the team’s leading scorers at Junipero High School (Half Moon Bay, CA).
Rounding out the first-year players is Parth Shah and Leon Ding. Shah was a four-year player at Saratoga High School (FL) at the driver position while Ding contributed greatly to his high school swimming team.
“I am really excited to see how our first-year players contribute to the squad. Each of them has a different learning curve from the high school to the collegiate game but they have definitely shown the ability to add value to what we are trying to do here,” Beemer said.
Coach Beemer's preseason Q&A --