Stanford, Calif. -
Dante Dettamanti has coached 701 games in his 24-year water polo career at Stanford University. This is Dettamanti's final year as head coach of the Stanford water polo program, and while he has collected memorable moments in his illustrous coaching career, he wants the 2001 season to be the most memorable of all.
"I'm not going to let down just because it's my last year," said Dettamanti, who has coached Stanford to seven NCAA titles in water polo and will retire at the conclusion of this season. "In fact, it'll be just the opposite. I'll probably put more effort into it. I would like to go out as national champion. That's what we're shooting for, to win the NCAA's."
Since the end of last year, the Cardinal varsity has worked extremely hard to insure that Stanford will be one of four teams that will compete at the NCAA Championships which will be held on Dec. 1-2 at the Avery Aquatic Center on the Stanford University campus.
"We have a good chance to make it to NCAA's," said Dettamanti. "There are a lot of obstacles along the way, including the fact that only two teams from our conference (MPSF) gain berths at the NCAA Final Four. The MPSF features the top nine teams in the nation."
The Cardinal will have a perfect blend of experience, youth, depth and talent that may put Stanford on the winners stand in December. Add the addition of five freshman, including 2000 United States Olympian Tony Azevedo and this could be, indeed, a memorable season for the retiring head coach.
"Usually teams with upperclassmen do well in their pursuit of an NCAA title, and we fit that category," said Dettamanti.
Stanford returns seven of its top nine scorers from a year ago, including top scorer and All-American Peter Hudnut. Hudnut, a junior, chalked up 44 goals last year, but shoulder surgery in the off-season, and a resulting case of tendinitis has slowed his progress. Hudnut should be ready for the 2001 season, but he won't be 100 percent until at least mid-season, according to Dettamanti. Hudnut occupies the two-meter position, and Stanford has two other players who will give the Cardinal continued strength. Mark Amott's good size at 6-foot-5, 220-pounds makes him a main threat on offense, while Greg Crum redshirted last year, and thus has added strength and knowledge of Stanford's system. Amott tallied 13 goals last year. Look for him to increase his scoring totals dramatically in 2001. Crum, along with fellow sophomore Mike Derse, played on the United States Junior National team at the World Championships in Turkey during the summer of 2001. Derse has the potential to be a starter while Crum will be used as backup to Amott and Hudnut.
Onno Koelman, Todd Snider, and Pasi Dutton are Stanford's other seniors in addition to Amott who will give the Cardinal valuable experience in their quest for an NCAA title. Koelman and Snider each scored 19 goals last year while Dutton added ten goals even though his primary strength is as a two-meter defender.
The goalkeeping duties are in good hands, led by All-American Nick Ellis, who has been a starter since arriving at Stanford in 1999. In two seasons on The Farm, Ellis has collected 373 saves. However, Ellis' position as a starter is not a given. Jaison Robinson, a sophomore, is pushing for a starting role, and has been training with the United States National team.
Along with Hudnut, other juniors to watch are Jeff Nesmith, Brian Darrow, Jeff Guyman and Nathan Allredge. Nesmith collected 21 goals last year, and the lefhanders' game has been further developed with the time he has spent training with the U.S. National team. Darrow has made rapid improvement and could be a starter this year. Guyman, a member of the nationally-ranked Stanford swim team, along with Allredge, will play important roles with their speed.
"We are anxious and ready to go," said Dettamanti. "We are strong at all positions, and have good team speed. I don't see any glaring weaknesses. All the earmarks of a good team are in place this year, similar to other teams that have won NCAA titles at Stanford."
Stanford University will host the NCAA Championships at the new Avery Aquatic Center, one of the finest water polo and swimming complexes in the United States. Already, the Center has hosted the 2000 NCAA Championships for women's water polo.
"Hosting NCAA's is another incentive to win the NCAA's," said Dettamanti. "Hosting this event at the Avery Aquatic Center will be a great event for Stanford, the community and collegiate water polo."
The usual cast of schools will dominate the national rankings again this year. Two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA lost most of its key players, but has recruited well. USC lost several of its top foreign players, but like UCLA has enjoyed good recruiting classes. Cal lost its two leading scorers, but brings everybody else back. Pepperdine had a good recruiting class and played tough last year. UC Irvine graduated many good players, and will redshirt some players. UC Santa Barbara will be stronger, while Pacific will again produce a solid team.
The Freshman Class
Stanford head coach Dante Dettamanti has recruited another group of outstanding freshmen, a group that will keep Stanford a national power now and in the years ahead. The list is led by Tony Azevedo, who redshirted last year in order to play for the United States at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Azevedo will make an immediate impact on the Cardinal, and opposing teams already know how difficult it will be for them to keep Azevedo from scoring almost at will. Azevedo, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team at the 2000 Olympics, recently played and led the U.S. team in scoring at the World Championships in Japan. The other four freshmen will be redshirted. Tyler Mobley was an All-Central Coast Section player at Palo Alto High School. Mobley had two brothers who attended Stanford, and his father is a professor in the medical school at Stanford. Chad Taylor will be the third goalkeeper on the Cardinal roster. The first team North Section selection player from DeLaSalle High School, Taylor helped his team win the North Coast Section CIF title last year. Ryan Caswell was the CIF Player of the Year from Santa Barbara High School, while Peter Finlayson gained numerous athletic and academic honors at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, Ca. Other redshirt freshman battling to make the travel squad are Reed Gallogly, Matt Moser, and Sam Tyre.
The 2000 Season
Stanford head coach Dante Dettamanti will be the first one to admit that last year was a disappointing season. After advancing to the championship game of the NCAA Final Four the previous two years, Stanford fell to a 14-13 record in 2000, and a sixth place national ranking. That is not acceptable to Dettamanti, a coach who has won 644 games at Stanford and coached seven NCAA championship teams.
The 2000 Cardinal team was young (one senior on the 21-man roster). Stanford started the season strong with four straight wins, including an 8-6 victory over second-ranked California. In fact, during the course of the 2000 season, Stanford scored four victories over teams that were ranked in the Top-5 nationally. That included two wins over Bay Area rival California.
All-America honors went to two Cardinal standouts. Nick Ellis gained All-America honors for a second straight season. Ellis chalked up 167 saves in 24 games. Peter Hudnut, the team's leading scorer with 44 goals, gained All-America honors for the first time.
Hudnut and Ellis, along with Onno Koelman, garnered MPSF all-league honors. Koelman also earned scholar-athlete recognition from Stanford University, the MPSF and the NCAA for his outstanding work in mechanical engineering.