Bears Co-Captain Balances New Duties With Defensive Intensity

Being Named a Third-Team All-American in 2007 Hasn't Quelled Spencer Warden's Drive to Succeed

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Spencer Warden

An in depth look at Spencer Warden's position as a leader and major offensive component of the Cal Men's Water Polo team.

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What separates average athletes from special ones is a hunger that can never be filled. Both groups may have the same physical stature, the same coaching staff and the same natural athleticism, but at the end of the day those elite players are always consumed with an insatiable desire to improve.

If you asked players from the Cal water polo team to point out a player who is always striving to better himself, they would point out junior co-captain Spencer Warden.

"Wardo," as he is often referred to by his teammates, comes to games, and especially practices, with a fiery intensity so that he is always performing at his best regardless of the situation.

"I'm a firm believer that the way you practice is the way you're going to play on Saturday or Sunday," says Warden. "When you slack off in practice or when practice becomes a low intensity, it's going to translate directly to the games."

With his attitude, it is no surprise that Warden immediately made an impact on the team after taking a redshirt his first year at Cal. During the 2006 campaign, he caught the coaching staff's eye with excellent play during man-down situations and in no time, he recieved increased playing time.

Last year, he blossomed into a defensive terror and was named a third-team All-American for his efforts. He has continued to be a nuisance for the other team's offense and has collected 47 steals midway through this season.

"Sometimes he'll catch you by surprise, so you don't think he's there, but he really is," says teammate redshirt freshman Cory Nasoff. "You're like, 'Oh, I can make it over him,' but at the same time he gets you. It's pretty amazing."

While defense is still his specialty, Warden has been pressed into broadening his game this year to become more of an offensive presence and also a more hands-on leader.

On both fronts, "Wardo" has already made noticeable progress since hoisting the 2007 NCAA championship trophy.

Eighteen games into the season, he is second on the team with 27 goals and tied for first with 20 assists.

"Spencer has been called upon to take a more active role offensively," coach Kirk Everist said. "He's the type of player that needs to create, but also on the offensive end, let the game come to him. And I think he's done a really good job of that this year."

As if adding a new aspect to his game was not enough, Warden was voted a team captain for the 2008 season by his teammates.

In some ways, it is a role that he naturally fits simply because he leads by example- not only by his play in the pool, but also by his constant encouragement of others to make improvements.

A month ago at practice, Warden directly confronted a young player about taking shots early in the shot clock. From an outside perspective, this may have been seen as an act out of anger, but in fact, it was only Warden's intensity asking for more out of his teammate.

"He's got a tremendous passion for the game," says Everist. "The team feeds off of (his work ethic) and I think they really respect him in terms of what he does in the water, out of the water, and those are really good qualities for a team captain."

It is hard to tell at this point how Warden will be remembered once his career at Cal comes to a close. If this season is any sort of indication of things to come, his lasting image will not just be as defensive stopper, but as a motivator that helped his team reach new heights.


Contact Mustafa Shaikh at [email protected]

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