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Getting to Know... Mo Kenney

Nov 12, 2020

The 13th installment of "Getting to Know…" features Mo Kenney, a freshman on the men's water polo team. Kenney, a six-foot-three-inch attacker, prepped at Newport Harbor High School and played club with Newport Beach Water Polo Club. He was also a member of the 2018-19 USA Men's Youth National Team.
Q: How old were you when you started playing water polo, and when did you know it would be the sport to take you to the next level?
A: I think I was around 10 years old when I started playing water polo. I initially started playing water polo so that I could be in shape for the junior lifeguard program. Where I grew up, junior guards were pretty big and I didn't know how to swim, so I figured water polo would be a good place to start. And then I just ended up liking it. Junior guards definitely helped me get in swim shape. I wasn't really a big swimmer before that, and so junior guards helped my swimming a lot. It was pretty fun to do, and it was a great childhood experience.
Q: As a leader of a successful high school team all four years, what motivated you to get better each and every year both individually and as a team?
A: Individually, my goal in high school was always to get to college. That was my personal goal. Now I have a new goal, so we'll see where that takes me. I feel like playing teams that were better than us or just as good as us like Harvard-Westlake, was critical. They were our rival and it was always a fun competition.
Q: Can you walk me through what it was like to see your 360-backhand shot off of a foul hit the back of the net in the 2017 league match to send the game to overtime and eventually win the league title?
A: I think we were down by one with three seconds left. I drew the foul, and that just seemed like, as weird as it sounds, it just seemed open, so I just sent it. The play itself was definitely a drawn-up play, but the shot I took was not the plan. So if I had missed, I don't really want to know what my coach would have done or said to me.
Q: As a SoCal native, when was your first exposure to UCLA water polo and what was it about the program that drew you to want to become a Bruin?
A: Ever since I went to high school, I started watching college games. It would always be UCLA or USC as the top two. Growing up in Newport Beach, I was surrounded by a lot of people that went to UCLA, like assistant coaches. Just talking to them throughout high school, becoming a Bruin eventually seemed like the right choice. But it's honestly been pretty cool to see water polo just grow as a sport with Pepperdine and Pacific playing at such a high level last year and staying competitive with the Big Four of UCLA, USC, Cal and Stanford. We've always been a small sport, so it's been nice to see it grow.
Q: Following the MPSF's decision in canceling the fall 2020 season, what's your mindset heading into potentially still having a season in 2021?
A: I don't think the delay really changes anything. We have a lot more time to prepare now. It seems like this preseason has been similar to a summer training, so the mindset has been the same. For me especially, the mindset has been set on just what I need to do to earn a cap and make the 16-man traveling team.
Q: What was it like to have your club season cut short in what would have been your final Junior Olympics this past summer?
A: With the pandemic, it was obviously a bummer that it got cut short. I wasn't really sure at the time what JOs would have looked like. I wasn't sure if we were doing a senior team with all the seniors from my club team, or if I was just going to play with my old high school. I wasn't really sure, but it was definitely a bummer to have it cut short.
Q: What is your day-to-day like with practices starting up and how has your transition been getting accustomed to a new coach and new team?
A: Honestly the hardest transition has been the school and the schoolwork. For the polo, I knew a lot of the guys coming in because I played with them in high school and stuff. For the coaches, you just have to work toward their expectations. It's not difficult. But definitely the transition into the schoolwork has been harder than the schoolwork in high school.
Q: What are you studying at UCLA and what are your career goals or plans post-water polo?
A: I honestly don't really know my goals after water polo. I'm just kind of going with the flow and I'm undeclared for my major. For my goals in water polo, it's just to compete and earn a cap and make the 16-man traveling team right now. That's still undetermined, so we'll see.

Q: Was there an athlete you admired growing up and what was it about them that drew you to them?
A: I think everybody's got that athlete for them, and for me it was Kobe Bryant. I feel like a lot of people say that. But his Mamba Mentality and how hard he worked made me aspire to have that same mindset. Obviously with the tragedy this past January, that was so rough. My high school coach was a huge Kobe fan and a huge Lakers fan. I think he took it the hardest because he was a big fan of Kobe, so that in itself really impacted the team as a whole.

Favorite thing to do outside of water polo? Watching television
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Japan
Favorite music artist? Post Malone
Favorite movie? Grown Ups
Favorite television show? Psych
What is your go-to post-game meal? Panda Express
Favorite professional team to watch/follow? Los Angeles Lakers
Why UCLA? Because it is the best

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh – Football
Carlie Dorostkar – Cross Country/Track & Field
Sam Feit – Men's Tennis
Sam Baron – Swimming and Diving
Kengo Aoshima – Men's Golf
Aislynn Crowder – Women's Soccer
Kevin Diaz – Men's Soccer
Frida Esparza – Gymnastics
DJ Lawson – Cross Country/Track & Field
Emily Bessoir – Women's Basketball
Johnny Juzang - Men's Basketball
Thessa Malau'ulu - Softball