UC IRVINE NOTEBOOK / JOHN WEYLER : Bailey Strongest Anteater in the Swimming Pool
You might think water polo would be one sport where big is not necessarily better. After all, it’s the only team sport where 75% of a competitor’s body is under the playing surface.
But UC Irvine sophomore Ryan Bailey--all 6 feet 5 inches and 235 muscle-bound pounds of him--is living proof to the contrary. Bailey is a two-meter man, the water polo equivalent of a center in basketball, and he’s a big man to be reckoned with.
Coach Ted Newland says Bailey is the strongest water polo player in the country this year and Bailey says you can thank Newland for that.
“My dad [Long Beach State trainer Dan Bailey] was a football player and my brother, Joe, was an All-American shotputter at UCLA, so I guess some of it is in my genes,” he said. “But Coach Newland really gets on me in the weight room. There’s no way I would work as hard without him around, I know that.”
Newland, 67, is a renowned fitness fanatic who still pushes himself to incredible athletic excess every day. Does he ever ask too much of Bailey?
“Oh, all the time . . . every day. We’re in the weight room and everybody else is doing their own thing, but he’s on top of me,” Bailey says, then changes his voice to a low growl to imitate Newland. “ ‘C’mon, Bailey. You can do more.’ He’s the only reason I’m so strong.”
And Bailey is a key reason the Anteaters are the No. 4-ranked team in the nation. He leads the team with 47 points, including six two-point goals. Again, he credits Newland.
“He recruited me out of Long Beach Millikan High,” Bailey said, “I was a big guy with a little bit of talent, I guess. I had heard all kinds of stories about him, ones I couldn’t even repeat. Things like the day when he told everybody on the team he could kick their butts and then put on boxing gloves and actually did it. And he was in his 50s.
“Sure, he’s crazy, but once you get to know him, you discover that he’s a great man and you really come to appreciate what he does for you. I know I wouldn’t be this good had I gone anywhere else.”
Bailey, who was a member of the national team that competed in the junior world championships last summer in France, says he has matured at Irvine and is bigger, stronger, faster, with a better selection of shots and a better understanding of what to do and when to do it.
He says his major--officially undeclared--is water polo. And he would “really, really” like to play for the national team someday.
“I think I can do it, I just have to get into better swimming shape,” he said. “I have the size and the skills. It probably will boil down to whether or not I can make myself go out there and swim every day.”
Maybe he can get Newland to put on the Speedos and jump in with him. Surely, Newland could swim alongside and bark encouragement at the same time.
Bigger than big: How important is the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation water polo tournament that starts Friday at Newport Harbor High?
At least five of the top seven teams in the country will have their season ended this weekend, while only two go on to compete in the revamped four-team NCAA tournament. Automatic berths go to the MPSF, the Eastern Water Polo Assn. and the Western Water Polo Assn. with one at-large spot.
“This means that the conference tournament will be the really big one and the first two games of the NCAA tournament are going to be very easy,” Newland said. “There will be two Mountain Pacific teams in the finals, that much is certain.”
Newland would like to see regional playoffs leading to a Final Four, but Bailey says there has been one positive impact of the new format.
“It really takes away from the NCAAs and makes the conference tourney the best tournament in the nation,” he said, “but it also has made the season exciting. Every game has more importance.”
Irvine (15-6, 6-2 in conference) is the second-seeded team and opens play at 3:30 Friday against the winner of the 9:15 a.m. Stanford-UC Santa Barbara game.
Miracle workings: Tchaka Shipp, the 6-7 transfer from Seton Hall who was in a coma for nine days after a near-fatal car accident in July of 1994, continues to improve.
“He’s coming closer to being just about where he was before he was hurt,” Coach Rod Baker said. “Every day is a new experience for Tchaka, but just the fact that he’s back and practicing is really fun to watch. And the size of his heart makes a big difference for us.”
Sophomore forward Kevin Simmons, who was with Shipp in the car but received only superficial injuries and went on to win Big West freshman of the year honors last season, says his friend is already providing an inspirational boost.
“Just seeing him out there makes everybody feel great,” Simmons said. “And he’s going to be a big plus [when be becomes eligible Dec. 9]. I’d say he’s about 75% right now, but he’s starting to catch the ball and finish like he used to. It’s really great to see.”
The women’s volleyball team sent Coach Mike Puritz, who announced his resignation last month after 16 seasons, off to his new duties as the school’s director of the Recreational Instruction Program with a smile on his face. The Anteaters (7-19) finished the season with a three-match winning streak. “This is really a good group,” Puritz said. “With a little more seasoning, it will be a veteran team which should be ready for a good year next season.” Athletic Director Dan Guerrero had some words of praise for Puritz. “Mike’s dedication to this university must not go unnoticed,” he said. “Competing in arguably the best volleyball conference in nation, he not only has been a hard-working coach, but he also has displayed excellent administrative capabilities. He’s a valuable asset to this department and we’re glad he will be remaining in another capacity.” . . . Senior Jo-Jo Yaba, Irvine’s top finisher (13th) in the NCAA District 8 regional championships and the first Anteater cross-country runner since 1992 to qualify for the NCAA meet, finished 62nd out of 183 runners Monday. Her time was 18 minutes 15 seconds over the 5,000-meter course at Iowa State. Irvine’s Traci Goodrich qualified for the NCAAs in ’92. . . . UC Irvine was one of two universities receiving a special presentation from the National Consortium for Academics and Sports during a conference in Boston last week. Irvine was honored for Guerrero’s Team UCI Program, a community outreach project that features Anteater coaches and student-athletes as speakers at local middle and elementary school functions. . . . Irvine’s women’s swim team picked up their first victory of the season, defeating Cal State Bakersfield last week. Senior Danielle Bries (200-yard freestyle), senior Gabby Garcia (50 free), junior Gwen Yoshizumi (100 backstroke) and freshman Michelle Diezno (100 breaststroke) all won their events. The Anteater men’s and women’s teams play host to Hawaii at 2 p.m. Nov. 28 at Crawford Pool.