The Stanford women’s water polo team is coming off an NCAA title and is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. Freshman driver Kiley Neushul–who had hat tricks in back-to-back games over the weekend–sat down with The Daily to talk all things Stanford, in and out of the water.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What were your expectations going into this season?
Kiley Neushul: Coming in, especially with the quality of my recruiting class, the goal for the season is to take each game as it comes. We have to remember that we are a team and we need to play as a team. I think especially for the players returning, we know we’re a very good team and are seeded first going into the season, and even though we’ll be missing players going to the Olympics, we are looking to win a national championship.
TSD: What was it about Stanford that made you choose to come here over someplace closer to home, or at UC-Santa Barbara where your mom is now the coach?
KN: I think I decided I wanted to go to Stanford in seventh grade when I saw them play in Santa Barbara, my hometown. Ironically, [Stanford assistant coach] Susan Ortwein was my babysitter when I was younger, but that didn’t really have anything to do with me coming here. Really, you just can’t find anything like this anywhere else. I was initially deciding between UCSB and Stanford. Then my dad said I would have to live in my room at home if I went to UCSB, so I said no way. But I felt pretty much all along that if I got into Stanford, I was coming here. Other schools had a lot to offer, but I feel like I’ve been on this team since I started playing water polo. It’s a very good fit for me both academically and athletically.
TSD: What is your favorite part about being on the Farm?
KN: I’d have to say it’s just been meeting so many amazing people in my dorm, in my classes; on the water polo team I’ve gotten close with a lot of the girls. And it was kind of unexpected. I grew up in a college town, and I wasn’t expecting it to be like this. Everyone’s just so nice here, and sometimes it makes doing school work hard. But you’re at Stanford so you have to get your stuff done, even though I do procrastinate occasionally.
TSD: How has the transition been for you going from high school to college polo?
KN: I came from a water polo background, my mom taught me how to play, she’s been my coach since forever. But I played a very free style of water polo, very loose without all that much of a specific plan. Coming here, I thought it was going to be much more structured, like the national team is, but Stanford I’ve found really is not and you can be very innovative on the team. And that’s what I was most concerned about, not being able to play how I wanted to play. And the coaches have made it clear I can do that, which has made the transition much easier.
TSD: What was it like to suit up and jump in the pool for your first match with the Cardinal?
KN: I was expecting a close game, we were playing [Loyola Marymount University], and they’ve made it to the final four in NCAAs before, so I prepared really heavily. I was just really excited, I mean, I’ve been dreaming of wearing this Stanford cap since I was in seventh grade. And then we got in the water; I didn’t know how things were going to be. It was just fun. I had a good time. Even though we won by a few more than I expected, it was really amazing.
TSD: I know you’ve said you like to play golf. What intrigued you about such an individual sport?
KN: I played golf for two years in high school, and I didn’t really like it. It was more of a humbler. I was bad. I was not good at golf when I first started. My parents really wanted me to fail at something. My freshman year I didn’t play in any matches, and then as a sophomore I opened the season as a starter, and our team hadn’t lost in 112 matches and we lost that first match of the season. It taught me to be levelheaded, and was really preparation for what was to come. But yeah, I definitely failed at golf for a long time.
TSD: What are your goals in water polo?
KN: I used to really want to go to the Olympics, that was my goal. I still do, but I’m focusing mainly just on the now. Playing at Stanford is so much fun, and I don’t want to really take things too fast, I kind of want to just progress as I’m here, and we will see what happens. The Olympics is obviously the goal of many water polo players and if that goal presents itself, then yes, I would love to go to the Olympics, but it’s been tough so far in that regard.
TSD: How did it feel getting your first collegiate award as Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Week?
KN: It’s always nice to be recognized for that, for my play, knowing that I worked really hard, but it should really be a team award. Water polo is a team sport, and I’m pushed every day in practice. In the water, I’m not the one passing myself the ball or getting open for a shot, so that really is an award for the entire team.
TSD: Best place to eat on campus, and what is your go-to meal?
KN: I’d say Tressider and that salad place [in Union Square]. And the southwestern chicken salad is really good when they make it fresh for you [laughing]. I get that on Mondays and Wednesdays after my psych lecture.