Q&A: Water polo's Kate Baldoni

Stanford water polo goalie Kate Baldoni joined The Bootleg following her heroic effort to lead the Cardinal to their second consecutive national title. Women's water polo won its second straight NCAA crown despite two of the team's top players, Annika Dries and Melissa Seidemann, redshirting to train for the Olympics. The Card figure to be favorites to three-peat come 2013.

Kate, I know you already earned that championship ring last year, but this time around you were the starting goalkeeper. Just a little more pressure on you this time around?

There's definitely a lot more pressure going into the game, being the starting goalie, and knowing that I'm playing the whole game. But, just having my team behind my back, everyone's all on the same page, we were very confident entering the game. It was an all-around exciting experience.

Amber Oland was fantastic in the goal during each of your first two seasons. What did you learn playing under her as an underclassman?

I definitely learned a lot playing with Amber. She is a great goalie. Obviously, we both had very different skills that we needed to work on. No one is perfect at the same things. But, Amber taught me a lot, we had a very good relationship, and it carries through all the way until now.

Fifteen saves, including 29 on the tournament to earn MVP honors for you. But Pallavi Menon's career ended in storybook fashion with the clinching goal at the 1:11 mark. How did you react all the way at your end of the pool?

I got out to my waist and jumped out of the pool. Pallavi said the first person she saw after scoring that goal was looking back at me in the other goal. I was ecstatic. That was a very clutch goal. We needed that at the time because it solidified the game for us.

You mentioned getting out to your waist. I know that's an important facet of a water polo goalie's game. What's your training regimen like?

Susan Ortwein is a great goalie coach. She has a lot of toys she brings out in the pool to help us with our skills. We do a lot of stuff in the weight room with our strength trainer Brandon Marcello. Even stuff out of the pool, like jumping, strengthening our legs and reactions, is all very helpful.

The physical preparation has certainly been rigorous, but you've now won two straight championships since the 10-9 heartbreaker in 2010 against USC, so it's certainly paid off. You were only a freshman back then, but would you say that loss has fueled your Stanford team on this run?

Definitely, especially being at the San Diego State pool again [where the 10-9 loss happened], we wanted to claim the pool back. Having the chance to play USC again in the final game was so motivating. We all thought about that.

Speaking of USC, their coach Jovan Vavic is a quite passionate guy on deck. How does Stanford's coach John Tanner compare to him?

They have very different coaching styles. Vavic raises his voice a lot, but I think that's just part of how he coaches. Nothing against that. [Tanner] is very encouraging, he is always motivating his players. Just very different styles of coaching.

Were Annika Dries and Melissa Seidemann able to stay involved with the team, even while they redshirted to train for the Olympic team this year?

They actually just made the Olympic team this week, so that's very exciting for them. They've given everything to this team that they can this year. Looking up in the stands - whether it's up here at a home game, down at UCLA, or at NCAA's - it's awesome seeing them still be as much part of the team as they can.

UCLA handed you your only two losses this season. Dries and Seidemann will be back next year, and Maggie Stephens, who's highly touted, is also joining the club. Are you looking forward to another crack at the Bruins next year?

It's definitely going to be something to look forward to. For now, though, we're just going to enjoy this win and this championship.

What's the next step for this Stanford water polo program?

Taking one year at a time is the most important. You always want to win a national championship, but it doesn't come easily. You have to work hard each day at practice and at each game. Maintaining the support of the team and always being together is most important. It's going to be exciting next year.

About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog via this direct link. For Stanford baseball insights, follow David on Twitter at davidmlombardi.

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