HAWAII GROWN REPORT
David Pietsch came off the bench to help UCLA win the national championship last year and used the momentum to lead the Bruins in scoring this season.
Pietsch picks it up
The senior captain from Manoa is keeping UCLA's winning tradition going
LOS ANGELES » David Pietsch spent last weekend in the deep end of the UCLA pool.
The 6-foot-2 water polo player for the Bruins likes it down there and proved it in helping his team secure a pair of victories over UC San Diego on Friday and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
The senior from Manoa scored the winning goal in the 6-5 victory over the Tritons at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He also made a key steal late to seal the deal. The team captain followed that with another goal in the easy 8-2 decision over the Gauchos. He currently leads the team in goals with 34.
"He is one of our biggest offensive threats and has a knack for knowing how to get the ball in the back of the goal, which is something that can't be taught," UCLA head coach Adam Krikorian said.
Pietsch was nominated for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week earlier this month after he notched a career-best six goals in the Bruins' 10-8 victory over UC Irvine.
Although the Punahou graduate has been the high scorer for his team on numerous occasions, he said his best water polo memory was beating Stanford at the Cardinal pool in overtime in front of approximately 2,500 screaming fans for the national championship last year.
"That game showed Pietsch's incredible character," Krikorian said. "Many players were in foul trouble or had gotten ejected, so I used him in overtime. He hadn't played all game and I put him into water in his biggest game of the year, let alone his life."
Pietsch didn't disappoint his coach or team. He earned the final ejection that led to the game-winning goal.
"The best part of the game is the total team concept that allows anyone on any given day to step up," Pietsch said with a big grin on his face. "And now it is an incredible honor to lead my team in defending the national title."
During the last three seasons, Pietsch shot better than 50 percent from the field, dished out 15 assists and garnered 26 steals. Pietsch redshirted in 2001, played in one match in 2002 and started 22 of 27 games in 2003. He was fourth on the squad with 19 goals and played in all but one game last season.
"He brings a multitude of things to the team. ... He understands how we like to play and he always has a positive attitude. He is one of the happiest guys I've ever known. There is rarely a time he is not smiling," said Krikorian, who has coached Pietsch since his freshman year. "It has been a pleasure to watch him play and grow. He came in as the low man on the totem pole, but his character and work ethic have helped him develop into the great player he is today."
Fellow Bruin teammate and childhood friend Cameron Smith agrees.
"We all look up to him because he is a great leader who gets the team motivated and teaches us the little things," Smith said.
Smith, raised a street over from Pietsch, has played water polo with him for years. Smith and Pietsch enjoy being teammates because they know each other's tendencies and share a unique bond.
"It's great to have Hawaii boys around ... someone who understands where you come from," said Pietsch, who was the 2001 Interscholastic League of Honolulu player of the year.
He added that Smith's father, Ken Smith, coached him at Punahou.
"He has been his mentor who directed me to UCLA and has always made the game fun," Pietsch said.
Pietsch plans to eventually return home to the islands where the majority of his family resides. However, first he would like to gain some work experience, perhaps attend business school and possibly visit Australia.
Pietsch is a two-time MPSF All-Academic honoree with a 3.1 GPA majoring in history.
Island athletes excel in the pool
Sean Cooney, a driver for Chapman, has scored five goals on 31 shots and assisted on 14 goals for the 9-13 Panthers. The junior from Kealakehe has 19 steals in 22 matches.
In 16 matches for the La Verne Leopards (13-7), Gerald Bolson has scored five goals and Sean Steele has two. They are freshmen from Punahou.
Tim Brown leads the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens with 61 goals with 24 being ejection goals. The junior utility from Iolani also is the steal leader with 27.
Ian Kusao, a senior driver from Iolani, leads the team with 26 assists. He has scored six times. Eric Salassa, a sophomore 2-meter player from Mid-Pacific, has one goal and two assists.
Damon Jones has one goal and four assists for the Air Force Academy. The 2-meter defensive player is a sophomore from Iolani.
At Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, junior goalkeeper Robby Field has 85 saves in 12 matches, sophomore utility Arik Look has scored five goals and freshman driver Chris May has two goals. All are Punahou grads.