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Water Polo: Rocha, Merced College aiming high in '08

Devyn Rocha knows it's a daunting task.

The 59 goals, 13 assists and All-American nod he achieved as a freshman will be difficult to top.

Still, the sophomore utility man has lofty goals for this season -- and his individual numbers are just the start.

Rocha hopes to lead the Merced College men's water polo team past its first-round appearance in the NorCal playoffs a season ago.

"I have to do it again," Rocha said. "It's one of those things where you can't get All-American as a freshman and not as a sophomore. I have to work just as hard, if not harder.

"It'd be great if I can score more than last year, but I really just want to do what it takes to help us win."

The two may go hand-in-hand as Rocha leads a group of four returning starters.

Goalkeeper Derek Alley, attacker Chris Tanzillo and utility man Tyler Matthies all bring plenty of experience to the Blue Devils.

Matt Zehrung, Matt Singh and Matt Soares also return for their sophomore campaigns.

"We definitely have the talent coming back to be very successful," MC coach Scott McCall said. "The only question is: What do the other teams have?"

One thing is certain: McCall should have a solid offense with Rocha, Matthies and Tanzillo all playing up front. The trio combined for 125 goals a season ago and should improve upon that.

"Tyler and I got pretty good at playing off of each other," Rocha said. "We both can play hole-set and then the other can attack off of that.

"I think we can score a lot of goals."

Rocha's best attribute may be his versatility.

McCall can use the All-American all over the pool, giving MC's coach numerous options.

"I like the physical battles of the hole-set and I like scoring, but I'd rather play a bunch of different positions and help the team win than just one position," Rocha said.

Rocha should see plenty of time leading the offensive charge as the Blue Devils transition into the Coast Conference and face defending state champion West Valley.

MC opens conference play Wednesday, hosting De Anza at 3 p.m.

"There are some solid teams in the conference," McCall said. "We definitely have our work cut out for us.

"Our goal is to be in the top six in the NorCal come playoff time, and I think it's something we can do."

MC Men's Water Polo

2007 RECORD: 11-19

KEY RETURNERS: Dereck Alley, Devyn Rocha, Matt Singh, Chris Tanzillo, Jake Zehrung, Tyler Matthies

NEW FACES: Andrew Price (GV), Brian Keesey (Tulock), Mark Pickering (Hanford West)

STORY: MC brings back plenty of experience and a lot of offense.