Terry Schroeder, Pepperdine water polo coach, is thinking about returning to the NCAA tournament, buoyed by the return of 18 lettermen and redshirts Geoffrey Clark, Rafael Gandarillas and Sasa Poljak.
Last year the Waves finished 8-17 overall and missed the playoffs. This year the team has plenty of offense, and only a poor defensive effort may forestall a big year.
"Our expectations are high," Schroeder said. "We have an extremely talented team, but in addition to talent, we have depth and experience at every position.
"This team has many legitimate scoring threats. My biggest concern is our team defense. If we can play well as a unit defensively, I think this team can make a good run at the NCAA title."
The redshirts alone should give the team much offensive power. Clark was the top scorer for the Australian national team at the 1988 Olympics. Gandarillas scored 87 goals to lead Pepperdine in scoring in 1987 and was named to the All-Big West Conference second team. Poljak scored 83 goals in 1987 and was a conference co-player of the year and an All-American.
Returning lettermen include seven who scored 10 or more goals, including leading scorer Rob Sutter with 46, and goaltenders Wells Guthrie and John Lupien. Others and their goals include Bryan Boyer (30), Chris Hakim (25), Blair Bishop (91), Erik Wood (17), Joe Kennefick (15) and Chris Almquist (11).
Key newcomers are junior college transfers Eric Bowman (Ventura College) and Paul Matarangas (West Valley Junior College) and freshman Juan Olivella from Puerto Rico.
The Waves will open the season Sept. 8 and 9 in their annual all-day Wasko Tournament at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool on the Malibu campus.
The Pepperdine women's volleyball team will have to play as a unit and not depend on individuals to be successful this season, says Coach Nina Matthies.
The Waves are evenly divided, with five veterans and five newcomers.
"My initial observation about this team is that everyone is of near equal ability," Matthies said. "I do not foresee us having a single dominant player this season. We must rely on consistent, team-oriented volleyball in order to be successful."
The Waves won their second straight West Coast Conference championship last season, but were eliminated by Texas Arlington on the road in a first-round NCAA match that lasted five games. Pepperdine, 13-1 in conference play, finished 16-16 overall.
Returning Pepperdine players include setter Laura Fort and outside hitter Tami Seidenberg, both seniors and both members of the all-conference first team.
Other letter winners are sophomore outside hitters Cari Delson and Carolyn Hueth and sophomore middle blocker Leslie Asplund, a reserve last season. Delson was named the conference Freshman of the Year, and Hueth was selected to the all-conference freshman team. Nora Reyes, a junior transfer from UC Santa Barbara, is another outside hitter.
Freshmen include middle blocker Elaine Caraher of Orland Park, Ill.; middle blocker Debbie Merandi of Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, outside hitter Blair Noonan of San Pasqual High in Escondido and middle blocker Julie Whalen of Santa Barbara High.
The Waves will play host to the alumnae at 8 p.m. Wednesday and open the regular season by playing host to USC at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at Firestone Fieldhouse.