Zach Greenwood
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/16/2011

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This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of Cal Football GameDay Magazine

By Scott Ball

As one of 11 seniors on this year's California men's water polo team, Greenwood is the only veteran player whose parents might have a tough decision on which side of the stands to sit if Cal and USC meet again for the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship, Dec. 3-4 at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex. The 6-3, 225-pounder from Sanger, Calif., has family deeply entrenched in the athletic lore of USC. Both of his parents were star Trojans, but it was the charm of Cal that brought one of the Bears' top defenders to Berkeley.

"I was recruited by USC, Stanford, UCLA and Cal," said Greenwood. "I took my recruiting trip to USC, had a good time and everyone was nice, but I just didn't mesh with the guys. When I visited Cal, I immediately liked it. My host was Brian Dudley (former Bear standout from South Africa) and he showed me great things about Berkeley, but the main attraction was the people. The people I met would always engage me in interesting conversation, whereas on the other trips it was just small talk. Here, everyone just seemed real. The quality of the people in the program makes Cal special and I knew right away I would get along with the team."

The tradition and the allure of the Cal men's water polo team had to be something special to sway Greenwood away from USC where his parents, Mark and Miram, enjoyed a phenomenal amount of success in the pool.

His father, Mark, swam on the Trojans' powerhouse swimming and diving teams that won four straight NCAA team titles from 1974 through 1977, earning All-America honors in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 200 IM. His mother, Miram, won the NAIA national title in the 100 backstroke as a freshman in 1977 at USC after having competed for the United States at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, placing ninth in the 200-meter backstroke.

"I would talk to my parents about their experiences swimming at USC and in the Olympics and it was pretty inspiring," said Greenwood, whose older sisters, Ashley (UC Davis) and Erinn (San Diego State), played collegiate water polo, and younger sister, Emily, is a junior water polo player at UCLA. "My Dad told me about how Indiana had won three-straight national titles in swimming before USC defeated them by one point his freshman year and how his teams then went on to win three more championships. My mom was only 18 years old when she swam in the Olympics in Montreal."

Now as a fifth year senior at Cal, Greenwood is looking to create his own legacy and help propel the Bears to another NCAA title match and join his Dad as a national champion. He saw Cal win the water polo championship a redshirt in 2007 as Kirk Everist's squad defeated USC, 8-6, for a second-straight NCAA title over the Trojans. Since that time, USC has won the three crowns, including defeating the Bears, 12-10 in overtime, in last year's championship at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

And even though Greenwood, an economics major at Cal, has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Berkeley, it has not been without struggle, including the heartbreaking loss to his parent's Trojans in the 2010 NCAA final that he considers one of the most disappointing days of his life.

"I was a two-meter hole set (an offensive player) my first season at Cal, but I was behind All-Americans Zach White and Brian Dudley and wanted to play more," said Greenwood. "Kirk (Everist) thought I could be a two-meter defender, so we both agreed I would change positions. It was a good decision for me, but I still had to work my way up the depth chart and that was difficult. Coming out of high school everyone thinks they are a star, including me, so it was a tough transition not to play right away, but it has been worth it."

Indeed, Greenwood's hard work has paid off as he has now competed in over 80 games for the Bears, including all 28 matches last season when he was Cal's recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Water Polo Trophy as the team's Most Improved Player.

"My folks never pushed me to go to USC," said Greenwood. "They had loved it, but they knew Cal had great academics, and an outstanding water polo program. It has been a wonderful experience to be in a position to play for a national championship as a Golden Bear...and it would definitely be nice to face the Trojans again in the finals."