RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- As yet another season approaches California Baptist University men's water polo will use the 2012 season to prove that it can compete at a high level with any team in the country.
This year, as the Lancers continue the transition into the NCAA Division II, the team is in an independent team with no conference.
"Being independent, we have no conference to compete in," said head coach Rick Rowland. "We aim to fill as tough of a schedule as possible."
In order to compete against that tough competition Rowland has loaded the roster with a strong core of returning players, which is enhanced by some transfers and freshman.
Senior goalie Austen Ramer returns in a position to break some of the programs all-time records. He is 175 saves away from passing assistant coach Jon Miller's all-time saves record of 1,025. Ramer has averaged 285 saves over each of the past three seasons.
"Ramer is an X-factor in games," said Rowland. "He is probably the top goalie all-time in our program."
2011 All-American and CBU leading scorer Scott Gleason returns this year for his senior season. He is coming off of a 73 goal season and currently has the 15th most goals in the history of the program. If he is able to score at least 70 goals this season, he can move into sixth on that list.
Another player to watch is Keith Jizmejian, as he returns from shoulder surgery after suffering a tear last December.
"He has been rehabilitating for a year and is looking to come back strong," said Rowland, "He will be a factor as we get further in the season."
Eric Carnohan is a new player that worked himself back into shape after being gone for two years on a mission. He played for the Lancers in 2009, picking up nine goals, five assists and ten steals.
"The freshmen are going to have to take time to prove themselves," said Rowland. "We have a strong returning squad."
In anticipation of full NCAA membership next season Rowland has five players redshirting this year so that they can stock up for postseason eligibility.
There is one major change to the competition this year, as the pool size has been reduced from 30 meters to 25 meters.
This change will alter the style of play that the Lancers have relied on in years past, forcing them to rely less on transition and break out goals and rely more on front court and 6-on-5 opportunities.
"The shorter distance will force the guys to get the ball out quickly, because they will have less time to think before they run out of real estate," said Rowland.
The Lancers open the season with the UCLA invitational on Sep. 1. They will face UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, two of the top NCAA D-I teams in the country.
"You can start the year by playing the patsies, or you can play the best," said Rowland. "On paper, we are not supposed to win either of these games, but our guys are fit and if they put their effort in, anything can happen."
The Lancers begin with a challenge, and the tough schedule will continue as they play eight teams that were ranked in the NCAA last year.
The toughest early year match-up will be USC, which is the four-time defending NCAA champion.
"When you challenge and compete against the best teams, you can play anyone," said Rowland. "It shows we play at a high level, and allows us to promote our program."
Other highlights of the upcoming season are the Lancer Invite (Sept. 28-29), the CWPA National Invite (Nov. 10) and a night game against Fordham on Oct. 4, where the Lancers will debut the brand new lighting at the Lancer Aquatic Center.
The action begins on Sept. 1 at 10:30 a.m. as the Lancers face UC Santa Barbara at UCLA.