April 26, 2012
BERKELEY -On the eve of the Cal women's water polo team (17-7) entering the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament at Stanford's Avery Aquatics Center, Calbears.com talked with junior center Dana Ochsner, who is sure to be a key player for the No. 4-ranked Golden Bears as they attempt to repeat as MPSF tournament champions.
Last season, Ochsner was fourth on the squad in scoring with 36 goals in 31 matches and earned second-team All-MPSF honors and second-team All-America honors as Richard Corso' squad made it to NCAA title match. As a freshman, she was a member of the MPSF All-Newcomer Team with 40 goals in 35 matches after being named CIF Player of the Year as senior at El Camino High School in Oceanside, Calif. This year, she has 16 goals in 23 contests, including a team-high two goals in Cal's last match against No. 1-ranked Stanford.
Q: What is it going to take for the Bears to repeat as MPSF Tournament champions?
A: It is going to take a lot of hard work with some tough battles. This weekend we are going to have three very tough games against three very good opponents. All the teams in the MPSF are strong and therefore no matter who you play against, it's going to be tough. This makes winning this tournament a very difficult task and will really come down to which team wants it the most. This is where I think we have an advantage.
Everyone on this team wants to win this tournament. We all have the drive and desire and are going to do everything we can to be champions again. To be successful we are going to have to take the tournament one day at a time, really focusing on each one of the games individually. By doing this the tournament as a whole doesn't seem so overwhelming. In the end we are really going to have to fight and do our best in each individual match to be able to get a repeat tournament champions.
Q: What has been the highlight of the 2012 season so far?
A: The highlight of this season would have to be when we beat UCLA (8-6) at home for the first time ever. It was a very exciting game, it was our Senior Day, the band was there and the overall atmosphere was really good. I picked this as the highlight of the 2012 season not only because we won, but also because it was a game that we played great as a team. Everyone played for one another, we had great team defense, and we were really in control of the game. So, it was not just that we won this game, but how we won it that made it extra special.
Q: What were the keys to the team's success last year and what will it take to reach the NCAA title match again?
A: Last year was a really unique because many people had expected us to not be very strong, and we ended up in the NCAA championship game. We had lost senior seniors from the year before and we had a whole new starting line-up and team dynamic. However, I think a key to last year was how well we came together as a team. We knew being a younger team was going to make things a little more difficult and everyone was going to need to step up and play a bigger role on the team. I think we accomplished that, everyone really pushed themselves, both and practice and in games, and didn't let the fact that we hadn't been playing together for that long hinder us. I think to make it back to the NCAA title match we are going to really have to find that fight and drive that was so apparent in our team last year. We fought hard for every single win last year and that fight was what helped us make it all the way to that championship game. If we can fight that hard again, I think we can make it back to that title match.
Q: What has been the highlight of your Cal career so far?
A: That's a hard one, I've had some really great experiences playing for Cal and picking just one highlight is difficult. If I had to choose the biggest highlight, though, it would have to be making it to that championship game of the NCAA tournament last year. There was no better feeling then representing Cal in that title match last year against our cross-bay rival Stanford. It was one of the scariest and most exciting games in my entire career and even though it did not have the outcome I would have liked, the experience made it all worth it. Making it to that game was a tribute to how hard we had worked all season and to be the first team at Cal to ever make it to the NCAA championship match was a very big honor.
Q: Who is the funniest player of the team and why?
A: This is actually a very tough question. There are several funny players on this team, and plenty of the girls make me laugh on a daily basis.
However, the funniest person on this team I would have to say is not a player but our coaches. Both Matt (Flesher) and Rich (Corso) are pretty hilarious, even if they do not mean to be. I also say both of them rather than one or the other, because they are funniest when together. They both have very similar senses of humor, but tend to be funny in very different ways.
Matt has the talented of making extremely funny metaphors to help explain the game. His explanation of water polo, through real life situations, always seems to make the team burst into laughter. As for Rich, he has an knack for saying things, that at first make no sense, but once you really think about it are actually quite clever. Now combine the two of them together and even during the toughest of practices there tends to be at least one good team laugh at something the coaches have said.
Q: Who do you look up to in the world of water polo?
A: There are a lot of really amazing people in the world of water polo today, not just players, but coaches as well. For me, I have had a lot of people I've really looked up to throughout my water polo career. A few of the big role models in water polo for me have been Kami Craig, the USA Olympic starting center, and Kristin Stanford, my old club coach. Both are strong women in the water polo community. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Kami at a national camp this summer and she's amazing. Not only is she really nice, but is also one of the best hole sets I've ever seen. As for Kristin, she was also a great player in college, but I look up to her for other reasons. While coaching us, Kristin earned her doctorate. She was so smart, not just book-wise, but also as a coach. Kristin really helped me to develop as a player and person, and I am very thankful to her for that.
Q: How is it playing for Richard Corso, someone who has been a head coach at the Olympics (USA Men's Olympic Coach at the 1996 Atlanta Games)?
A: Rich is a really exceptional coach, and he knows the game better than anyone I have ever met. I have been playing for Rich now for three years, and in those three years I have improved so much as a player. I have come to develop a really good coach-player relationship with Rich, which is great because it makes talking to him very easy. I find myself going to him with questions on different skills and parts of the game quite often and he always has an answer or explanation to help me out. Knowing Rich has such an impressive and extensive coaching background also makes it really easy to trust in what he says. So far in my time at Cal I have immensely enjoyed playing for, and being coached by, Rich Corso. He's a great coach who has helped me become the player I am today. And, hopefully in my remaining time here at Berkeley, he will make me even better.
Q: What is your team's motivation playing Arizona State in the MPSF Tournament first round after losing to the Sun Devils during the regular season?
A: It's always hard to play a team after you have suffered a tough loss to them. However, we have taken that loss to Arizona State as more of a learning opportunity rather than a reason to fear them. We know them so well - we've seen how we played when we beat them and how we played when we lost to them. We know what we need to work on and what we need to do to be successful. With this knowledge, along with the deep desire for retribution and the will to win, I believe we will be very motivated and prepared to play them in the tournament.
Q: How do you manage studying at a prestigious school like Cal and competing in Division I athletics?
A: It's not easy, I can promise you that, but it is doable. Time management is the key. Learning how to balance class with practice, as well as studying and finding some time to eat and sleep, is definitely a difficult task. Luckily, Cal has very good resources for student-athletes and several great people who are willing to help you out.
Tutors, study hours, and teammates are all really important to be able to manage a tough course load and a grueling practice schedule. Fortunately after a few years here I have started to find a good system that works for me and I know what I need to do in order to be successful in both in the classroom and the pool.
Q: You are majoring in political science, what would you like to do once your water polo career is over?
A: One great thing about the political science major is it gives you the option for several different career choices. For me, I am hoping to go into international politics. The emphasis for my major is international relations, and I am very interested in what goes on around the world, both socially and politically. My dream job would be to become a diplomat or ambassador in another country. However, I would also love to work for an international NGO or non-profit. No matter what I end up doing, my goal is to work in a job where I can help people around the world. Whether I do this by being a politician or working for a non-profit company, I really just want to help make a difference in people's lives.