Bucknell Women's Water Polo Opens 2010 Season at Home this Weekend
Feb. 10, 2010
LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell women’s water polo team kicks off its 12th season this weekend as it hosts the Bison Invitational at Kinney Natatorium. Bucknell, which posted an 18-17 record last year, will play four games over the three-day event, starting with Friday evening’s 6 p.m. contest against Gannon.
A total of 17 contests will be played over the course of the Bison Invitational. Two games will be contested Friday evening, nine more on Saturday, while six more will be held Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. Bucknell will face Mercyhurst and Wagner on Saturday and will wrap up the weekend with a 12:15 p.m. game Sunday against nationally ranked Indiana.
Bucknell’s Bison Invitational Schedule
“More so than any other year our emphasis on team play will be pronounced this year,” mentioned Abdou during the preseason. “In our losses in recent years we have had people score multiple goals, but we want to get back to seven, eight different people scoring goals in the box score. That’s when we have been successful.”
In addition to having a more balanced offensive attack, Abdou hopes the Bison can avoid the late-season swoon they encountered during last year’s postseason. Bucknell posted an eight-game winning streak to stretch its record to 18-11 heading into the final regular-season contest againt nationally ranked Indiana. The Bison lost a 7-4 decision to the Hoosiers and then proceeded to drop two overtime games at the Southern Championships and all three outings at the Eastern Championship to conclude the campaign on a six-game losing streak and finish 18-17. To combat that problem this year, Abdou has scheduled just four games in the month leading up to the Southern Championships, with none of them being on the same day. Additionally, Bucknell will play just five games on its Spring Break trip to California, rather than the eight it played last spring.
While Abdou has tailored the schedule a bit, it is as difficult as ever. Five teams ranked in the preseason top 20 show up on the schedule, while league foes Maryland and Princeton were also receiving votes. The strong schedule is nothing new for this group of Bison, who have faced 21 ranked foes over the last two years.
With a group of three seniors and three juniors who have all been contributors since day one, Abdou has high expectations for his squad this year.
“When I look at this team, I am looking at an experienced group,” said Abdou, who will see six starters return from a team that tied Maryland for first in the conference during the regular season the last two years. “There is really nothing they haven’t been through over the last few years. Our juniors and seniors will be leading the way in terms of continuing to build this program.
“The production of our senior class is vital to our success this year. Both (Shana) Palencia and (Alison) Carter are coming off injuries and if they remain healthy and (Valentina) Rozas performs up to the level she has the last few years, all three of them are among the best at their positions in the conference.”
While all three seniors have been impressive over the years, none has been showered with more honors than Rozas, the first two-time Honorable Mention All-American in program history. A team co-captain along with Palencia, Rozas ranks in the top 10 in Bucknell’s record books in six different career categories, including ejections drawn (2nd, 231), shots (3rd, 456), goals (4th, 190), points (6th, 255) and steals (7th, 151).
Last year the explosive offensive performer who has been named First Team All-CWPA Southern Division each of the last two years, piled up career highs in goals (73), assists (24) and points (97). Her goal total ranked second on the team and is also second on the program’s single-season list.
“I think Val will continue doing what she always has done,” predicted Abdou. “She has been great for us the last three years and that should not change in 2010.”
Palencia had a breakout year as a sophomore in 2008 with 42 goals and 24 assists and she followed that up with an even better 2009 (49g, 38a), when she finished fourth on the team with a career-high 87 points. She now ranks eighth on the career assists list with 80 and is seventh in career sprints won (38).
A strong defensive player who is a fast swimmer, Palencia was fifth on the team with 38 steals a year ago and now has 134 in her career, just six shy of 10th place on that ledger.
“Shana has improved every year and I think this is going to be her best year,” said Abdou. “She had to battle that injury last year and I am looking forward to seeing her produce a lot her senior year. She does so much for us. She is one of our best all-around players.”
Carter is a two-year starter in goal who has appeared in 66 games over her first three years. She ranks third on the program’s career saves list with 460, including 176 last year. A veteran of more than 1,600 minutes in cage, Carter owns a career save percentage of .515 and was an all-conference selection as a sophomore.
“Alison has been working hard now for three years,” praised Abdou, who also has sophomore Brittany Connell (36 saves in 2009) to turn to in goal. “She’s primed to have a great season. She will be the leader and backbone of our defense on what should be a very good defensive team.”
Canonica is just halfway through her career, but with another season like last year when she finished second on the team with a career-high 123 points, she will tie Aubrey Rowe’s program points record (358). She is already tied for third on the career assists list with 125 and will certainly break the eight-year-old record of 142 before the season is half over. Canonica also owns the top two spots on the single-season ledger with 61 and 64 helpers in her first two years.
“I really want to emphasize teamwork and what Kandis can do for that teamwork,” explained Abdou about his left-hander. “I once again see Kandis as someone who will take care of the ball for us and lead our power play and frontcourt offense.”
Like Palencia, Prickett battled shoulder issues throughout the 2009 campaign. After tallying 44 goals as a freshman, she registered half that total last year. However, she was still very productive, nearly doubling her assist total from 17 to 33. She is one of four returnees to enter 2010 with more than 100 career points (116). Additionally, her 57 steals were third on the team.
"Haley played well despite limitations due to injuries,” said Abdou. “She still had a good season and hopefully coming off shoulder surgery she will be ready to contribute at a high level once again.”
McNally is the lone junior or senior who was not a regular starter last spring, but that does not mean she does not bring experience to the pool. The Floral Park, N.Y., native appeared in 35 games and made five starts a year ago, leading a bench that saw five members see action in at least 30 games. McNally has netted nine goals, dished out 10 assists and accumulated 13 steals in her career.
“Meghan has to really step up this year,” mentioned Abdou. “She improved dramatically from her freshman year to her sophomore year and now as a junior I look at her as someone who will step up.”
Bucknell’s final returning starter from last year is sophomore Amanda Skonezney. The Mechanicsburg, Pa., native is the Bison’s fastest swimmer, and she showed it by winning 77 sprints, the second-best single-season total in program history. She added 27 goals and 13 assists and Abdou expects her role to expand as she continues to gain more experience.
Hallie Kennan is another sophomore who gained experience last year, appearing in all 35 games, mainly off the bench. The left-hander scored 13 goals and dished out 15 assists.
Sophomore Becca Shopiro also made an impact as a freshman, giving the Bison one of their deepest benches in recent memory. She tallied one goal, five assists and 13 steals while appearing in 30 games.
Fellow sophomores Ariel Frankeny and Christina Wagner will try to add to the Bucknell depth in 2010. Wagner saw action in three games last year, while Frankeny and Varela did not appear in a contest as rookies.
“A key to our success is the freshman class acclimating quickly to our system,” commented Abdou. “All four of them bring talent and skill to their positions. I am really looking forward to what they can do. They all have great work ethics and come from good water polo backgrounds.”