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BOYS' WATER POLO

Team Play Pays for University's Peck

October 17, 2000|MELANIE NEFF

Don't let the nickname "Teddy" fool you.

There's nothing soft and cuddly about the 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior who sports a goatee and long hair and is considered among the most dominating water polo forces in Orange County. In fact, University's two-meter man would prefer that everyone call him Ted.

A four-year starter for University, Ted Peck is content to play for a middle echelon program that has skittered in and out of the county's top 10. Joining one of the county's powerhouses, like Corona del Mar or Newport Harbor, has crossed his mind, but in the past two years Peck has seen improvements in University's team and decided to choose friends over fame.

"I worried about playing here when I was a freshman and sophomore," said Peck, who turned 18 last week. "But I like the guys on our team now. I'm really enjoying it. We have the ability to beat a lot of people once we start clicking, and I think by the playoffs we will be."

The Trojans (13-6) have made several appearances in the county's top 10, but are currently unranked. They are No. 7 in the Southern Section Division II poll, behind, among others, fellow Pacific Coast League teams No. 1 Corona del Mar and No. 4 Laguna Beach. They play Laguna Beach at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Peck, who was a second-team Times' all-county player as a sophomore and first team last season, began playing water polo in the fourth grade at the suggestion of his older sister Signey, a swimmer at University.

"I loved it," Peck said. "Now I pretty much play every day."

When he isn't competing for the Trojans, Peck trains with the Long Beach Shore club team or with Ted Newland and the UC Irvine squad. A former member of the National Youth team, Peck is a member of the Junior National team that won a gold medal in the Pan American Games in August.

"That was probably the most amazing thing in my life," Peck said. "It was awesome. Playing against all those other teams and representing your country is a very cool feeling. And to win the gold medal was just amazing."

Peck says his international playing experiences have improved his game. He has scored 81 goals already this season, surpassing his 76 goals for all of last season.

"Playing against all those huge guys, where everyone else is just as big as me, has really helped," Peck said. "I had to work to get open. Last year in high school, I just waited for someone to get the ball to me."

Peck also credits his teammates for his increased offensive output. With more players on the team shooting the ball, it is opening him up for more one-on-one opportunities.

"Last year, we weren't as good," Trojan Coach Jon Pendleton said. "This year, we have players that can help Teddy out. He always gets so much of the pressure from other teams, but now he is getting open more."

Despite his size, Peck is quick. He competes on University's swim team in the freestyle to improve his speed and stay in shape. He has dropped more than 20 pounds over the past two seasons, and has become an offensive threat from anywhere in the pool.

"He gets up high and moves really well," Pendleton said. "He just dominates the position."

Corona del Mar Coach John Vargas agrees.

"He is one of the best out there," Vargas said. "He is hard to stop."

LOOKING AHEAD

Newport Harbor will try to regain the No. 1 ranking it held at the beginning of the season when the Sailors go up against three of the best teams in the county and the Southern Section this week. Today, the No. 2 Sailors host No. 1 Villa Park. The Spartans won the first meeting between the teams, 8-5, in a semifinal of the South Coast tournament. On Friday, the Sailors travel to No. 4 Foothill and on Saturday they visit Los Alamitos, No. 2 in Division II.

If you have an item or idea for the water polo report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at melanie.neff@latimes.com

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