Continuing our interview series we now hear from Anna Phelps who is the head coach for the VMI Keydets and on Tuesday night they won their first ever game against Salem International 22-6. VMI is in their first year as a varsity program and are part of the MAAC which is huge for them since being an independent is in a tough spot to be in.
1. Being a brand new team that did not even have a club team to draw players from could you describe the process you took to bring prospective players to VMI?
I have been involved with water polo since I was 8 years old so the process of starting to draw new players to our team began with contacting my coaching friends who had access to some of the top club and high school players. My husband Jeff, who is the Assistant Coach, also has been part of the water polo community for over 20 years so that was helpful. I was fortunate that VMI gave me an entire year and great funding to scour the country for talent so I spent most of that year on the West Coast looking for the right student athletes. Part of the challenge was just getting the word out about the school and the new program but it helped to have a solid network of coaches to support the effort. After we identified those we wanted to have on the team be started bringing them out for official visits. VMI is an amazing Institution that offers a top-notch education so for many students having the opportunity to be part of a brand new program in addition to attend a prestigious college made a lot of sense.
2. Being a new team what expectations do you have?
My expectations for the team this year are to get all of the players working toward playing the same system. With everyone being brand new it is very important that we all speak the same language, understand and can implement the team defense and offense and build the base for many years to come. I expect that the girls will work hard in the pool as well as the classroom and they will come to each practice with a willingness to learn and a positive attitude. If we can do this, my expectations for winning games would be to look back on the inaugural season as one that saw 1/3 of our games won. More importantly I want to see a team that has set a standard of excellence for what will be a very strong recruiting class coming in 2012/2013.
3. Who are your key players this year and what is the strength of your teams?
The strength of our team as it stands now is the perseverance to take on challenges and exceed expectations. VMI is a school that challenges students to be great leaders. In order to get to this point the students go through the first 6 months being basically broken down to be built back-up. I believe the team is stronger having gone through this process. There is a great sense of accomplishment having completed this 6 months and now we are ready to focus on practicing so we can be competitive in the MAAC.
4. What would qualify to you as a successful season this year?
We have a very talented core of athletes from the West Coast who will lead the team this season. Celine Lazzaro, Molly Andoe and Mackenzie Perkins make up the foundation of the team with a great supporting staff of talented swimmers behind them. We also are fortunate to have 3 Seniors (Samantha Farr, Chelsea Nugent and AManda Berrios) who will contribute.
5. How big a deal was it to be affiliated with a conference in your first year of varsity play?
We were very excited to be welcomed in the MAAC. We feel as though this is a great conference for us to participate and were very appreciative that we were accepted. We are looking forward to traveling North to meet our competition this season.
It will be exciting to follow this team to see how well they can do in their first season.