Polo Star Will Coach Former Teammates

  • August 21, 2005

HAYWARD - When Gabriella Keri pulled herself out of the pool in May after a tough loss in the championship match, she had a sinking feeling. It was her last collegiate water polo game.

The Hungarian transfer student, who led the nation in scoring for most of the season, has since graduated from California State University, East Bay. But though she is no longer eligible to score for her team, she has found her way back to the pool - this time, as a coach.

This summer, while visiting her family in Australia, head coach Lisa De Rossi sent Keri an e-mail offering her the job. She accepted it instantly: "I said, 'Oh, yes.'"

Two years ago - De Rossi's first year as coach - the team was unranked, and seven players quit on the first day of practice. By the end of the season, they had made it to the top 10. This year, they almost took the Division III championship.

Keri said she was a little anxious about coaching some of the same athletes with whom she had played just months earlier. "It's going to be very tough for me, just sitting on the bench, telling them what to do," she said. "I'm going to have to learn a lot from Lisa."

Kim Johnson, a goalie who likely will be team captain in the coming season, said it might be awkward for some, at first, to have a former teammate as a coach. But with Keri's upbeat personality, she said, that shouldn't last for long, if at all.

"She knows how our team works, which is great," Johnson said.

De Rossi said that's precisely why she hired Keri. "I wanted someone who knew my coaching style, program and what was expected of players," she said in an e-mail from Australia.

Keri and De Rossi anticipate that this season, which begins in January, will be a "rebuilding year," as many of the seniors - like Keri - have graduated. But De Rossi noted that the team has recruited 10 players from across the country, including Hawaii, Oregon and Michigan.

And the ever-competitive Keri - who said she has competed in two triathalons since the season ended - isn't about to set the bar low.

"I'd like to make it to nationals," she said. "And we'll be working on it."

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