Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 29, 2010

Local water polo club graduates now gracing Division I programs

by Rick Eymer

There are at least 30 local women's water polo athletes on the rosters of various Division I schools around the country. That's counting graduates only from six area high schools.

The Stanford Water Polo Club stands as the core of the water polo-rich area, with a significant tip of the hat to the NorCal Water Polo Club. Players and coaches alike have developed an appreciation of the game and honed their skills through the club level.

Stanford's club team has a 14-and-under program which has set the stage for future development, whether athletes compete beyond high school or not.

"There are not a lot of 14-under programs," said Stanford coach John Tanner, who helps run the club program with Susan Ortwein and Kyle Utsumi, among others. "The ones who play in high school are already competitive. It's important for our sport to develop the sport in this area."

Tanner and Ortwein took over from former Stanford coach Ben Quittner, who started the club in 1992.

Local high school coaches such as Ted Minnis, Cory Olcott, Travis Wyckoff and Chris Rubin have been or are in the program.

"When you have great facilities and a lot of great coaches it creates an atmosphere," Tanner said. "Players get started and then become dedicated to the sport."

Men's water polo has also developed at the same hyper speed and there are more than a dozen college players with local ties.

For the women, it's a relatively young sport and it caught on in a hurry.

"Kyle gave me a list of 16 women who earned All-American academic honors at 11 different universities that came through our club," Tanner said. "In 2008, when the CCS finals were held at Stanford, someone pointed out the final four schools were all within a few miles of the campus. Those are the things that impress me. We've always tried to emphasize a balance of academics and athletics."

Stanford has four locals, one in each class: senior Kelly Eaton (M-A), junior Kim Krueger (Menlo), sophomore Pallavi Menon (SH Prep) and Vee Dunlevie (SH Prep).

Other Pac-10 teams also boast of prominent local players. Defending national champions UCLA claims Megan Burmeister and Cammy Sullivan (Menlo), KK Clark and MJ Mordell (SH Prep) with Rebecca Dorst (M-A) committed to attending next year.

Lindsay Dorst (SH Prep) is a redshirt freshman at Cal, and Palo Alto's Remy Champion is a teammate.

Around Northern California, there's Sacred Heart Prep grad Adriana Vogt at San Jose State and SH Prep's Laura Child and M-A grad Heidi Kucera at UC Davis.

SH Prep grad Christie Clark will be in the pool for UC Santa Barbara when the Gauchos face Stanford on Saturday at Cal.

Menlo's Elise Ponce plays at Loyola Marymount, M-A's Morgan Leech is at Arizona State and Palo Alto's Liza Dernehl is at Indiana and Woodside Priory's Constance Hiller is at USC.

Then there's the Ivy League, where Palo Alto grads seem to thrive. Harvard boasts of Lizzie Abbott, Roxanne Pinto and Natasha Whitney. Tanya Wilcox and Phoebe Champion are at Princeton, and Hallie Kennan and Tara Murao play for Bucknell.

Menlo's Cayley Bowles and Castilleja's Laura Martinez are also at Princeton, while M-A's Rita Bullwinkel, Menlo's Brittany Westerman and Castilleja's Kat Booher are all at Brown.

Palo Alto's Allison Feeney plays for Redlands, and other Stanford water polo club members in college include Whitney Allen, Kandis Canonica (Bucknell), Jenna Roe (Foothill), Wren White and Laura Espinosa (Santa Clara), Lauren Wyckoff and Cassie Wyckoff (Indiana), and Katie Zakula (UC Santa Barbara).

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