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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Inside the game with…

Defense has been the focal point of the men’s water polo team all season.

Goalie Kevin Peat has been a big reason why the Aggies are 16-8 overall and 13-1 in Western Water Polo Association play.

The Walnut Creek, Calif. native has been a rock for UC Davis in front of the net, surrendering only 6.9 goals per game. Peat has 203 saves on the season and is third all time in blocks for UC Davis.

Peat took a break from preparing for the start of the WWPA Championships to sit down with Aggie Sports Writer Matt Wang to discuss the upcoming tournament, his time at UC Davis and the team’s chemistry.

Loyola Marymount University has won seven of the last nine WWPA championships. They are the team to beat at the event. How do you think the Aggies match up against them?

We’re a very fast team. Our attackers, especially Colin Hicks, Anders MacCarthy and Cory Lyle are very fast and can counter attack. Some of those guys swim their freestyle in 46 seconds and are lightning fast. They’ll be a big advantage for us.

UC Davis is entering the tournament as the two seed so it should be very thrilling. What has been the most memorable game of the season thus far?

Any game against a rival team. The Santa Clara games and UC San Diego games are always in the back of my head. We executed very well in those games, especially against UCSD. We knew who their top players were and effectively took them out of the game. We made others step up into roles they weren’t ready to play. It showed a lot of mental awareness.

Do you get nervous before a game?

I like to call it excitement more than nervousness. Any athlete will tell you that a little bit of “nerves” will make you sharp. It keeps you good. It means that there is something riding on the game. A little bit of pressure doesn’t hurt you. It’s like midterms. Too much pressure and it’s just when you start panicking and think “Oh my god I’m playing Stanford!” It’s just another water polo team. You just have to calm it down a little bit.

Against which teams were you the most nervous?

When we were playing California or a game against the bigger conference teams, I get really nervous. I played well against Stanford, mostly on adrenaline. I think that’s because I came up through the Golden Bears water polo pipeline. Stanford was go time, you play or you get pulled out. I grew up idolizing Cal and bigger Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents, LMU and UCSD. It was nerve racking, and sometimes I felt the adverse effects of anxiety.

You’ve been swimming since you were four. How did that start?

My parents gave me swim lessons and put me in the pool. I learned by sink or swim [laughs].

You’ve seemed to be able to swim a lot more than you sink. How long have you been playing water polo?

I started in the sixth grade, but I’ve been a swimmer since I was four. A couple of my friends’ older brothers played water polo at the high school I would attend. I was pretty tall for my age and they asked me to swim. Soccer was my first sport and there are a lot of similarities between the two in terms of strategy and structuring. I was a field player for three years, going up and down the pool trying to score goals.

You seem to have transitioned from offense to goalie seamlessly. How did you go from trying to score goals as an attacker to denying the other team from scoring as a goalie?

My coach told me to come to a [Junior Olympic] tournament one weekend. I didn’t really know what was going on. He asked me to jump out of the water to see how high I could get up. I jumped out of the water, and then he asked me to spread my arms. He said to me, “You’ll do fine, go play goal.” [Laughs] That’s how that started.

You’re an impressive athlete, but you’re also a student too. Could you describe some of your time at UC Davis?

Well, I came in undeclared but declared international relations in 2008 in my sophomore year. I got excited about the 2008 presidential election. I was going down the path of exercise biology. Organic chemistry put up a pretty big roadblock [laughs]. The election, politics, international interdependence and how the world really works got me excited and so I switched.

What has been your favorite class thus far?

Other than the electives? [Laughs] I’m taking the standard electives as Nutrition 10: Discoveries and Concepts in Nutrition and Human Development 12: Human Sexuality. My favorite is Political Science 123: The Politics of Interdependence. It’s really interesting to see the different games states can play with each other and how they act. I’m also a psychology minor. Any psychology class is interesting for me.

MATT WANG can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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