With the fall sport season ongoing, multiple Pepperdine athletes in their sophomore seasons said they are looking to take their game to the next level.
This semester, three Pepperdine athletes look to build off of successful freshman campaigns: Adam Csapo, sophomore Men’s Water Polo attacker; Tatum Wynalda, sophomore Women’s Soccer midfielder and forward; and Jeneath Wong, sophomore Women’s Golf player.
“I want to be a part of a Pepperdine team that was just groundbreaking,” Wynalda said.
Adam Csapo: European Powerhouse
Csapo was born and raised in Hungary, where he said he grew up watching his father and brother play professional water polo.
“It’s really hard to think back on it because I felt like it came so naturally,” Csapo said, “My dad was a professional in Hungary, and my brother also played, so it was probably under their influence.”
In Hungary, Csapo was a member of the Hungarian National Team system with the 2003 age-group from the age of 12, finding himself on the Junior National Team’s roster in 2015. Pepperdine jumped at the chance to sign him back in 2021, according to a Pepperdine Athletics article.
Csapo would go on to score 48 more goals during this season, amounting to a total of 52 — he finished the season second overall on his team.
Csapo’s 2022 season statistics are as follows: 25 games played, 52 goals (2nd most) and 25 assists with 77 points (3rd most) on a .430 shooting percentage, according to Pepperdine Athletics.
However, Csapo said his previous season’s stats don’t matter. He said it’s about how he can improve for the season ahead.
“It’s about the team winning,” Csapo said. “Even though the stats look and sound good right now, I had a lot of down games. The goal is to play more games at a good level. It doesn’t have to be exceptional just as long as the team wins.”
Last season, the team had a record of 13-14, going just 2-3 in conference, falling short of their season goal of a GCC Championship. So far, this season, the team has already beaten their previous win tally with an overall record of 19-4, and Csapo said the team has a new goal in mind: an NCAA Championship.
“Pepperdine’s goal is always to make it to NCAA [Championship], and with me being here, I want to make sure we can make it in the next few years,” Csapo said. “This year, we have a really good chance, and I don’t think it’s a big goal to say we want to win it all this year.”
On top of a national championship, Csapo said he had a personal goal in mind that he’d like to cross off before his time at Pepperdine comes to a close: the Peter J. Cutino Award.
“As I said, I’m not a stats guy, but this award goes to the best player in the NCAA every year, and it includes their team succeeding,” Csapo said. “I hope Pepperdine has a team and I get to a level where I’ll be able to win it one day.”
Tatum Wynalda: Soccer Phenom
Wynalda is a local who grew up through the canyon in Westlake Village. Her family has roots in soccer that dig deep into its rich history.
Wynalda’s father, Eric Wynalda, played in three World Cups (90′, 94′, 98′) and scored the first-ever goal in MLS history. Up until 2008, he was the all-time leading goal scorer for the US national team. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004, according to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
For Wynalda, she said her family practically lives for soccer because her father had a lot of success and involvement within the sport. She said because of this, her father is one of the main reasons she plays the sport now.
“My dad was the kind of person that said [I was] going to try soccer before any other sport,” Wynalda said.
Luckily for her, it was the perfect fit, as she said she immediately fell in love with the sport. When it came to picking a school, Wynalda said Pepperdine was the best place for her, and she truly admired what the school had to offer.
The Waves finished that season with a 9-4-5 record overall, going 3-3-3 in conference play, which wasn’t enough to reach the NCAA tournament. However, this didn’t stop Wynalda, as she put up impressive numbers in her rookie season: 18 games played, 8 goals (2nd most), 28 shots, 14 shots on goal and 3 assists, while tallying a total of 17 points (2nd most) with a .500 SOG%
“I’m a pretty fearless player, and I like to play big,” Wynalda said. “Just take every moment for what it is, and just make the most out of my opportunities.
That energy carried her through the season, and she said she quickly realized the advantage she had being a rookie. Coming into her sophomore season, she said she just as quickly learned how much information everybody had on her.
“The greatest thing about coming in as a rookie is no one knows who you are, so they don’t really have a lot of dirt,” Wynalda said. “I very soon realized, this year, they know who I am.”
On top of her hopes of winning a championship, Wynalda said she also has a greater goal in mind.
“I want to go further than any Pepperdine team has ever gone, which means passing the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament,” Wynalda said. “I want to leave this program knowing I laid everything on the line and hopefully, have a legacy that I’m really proud of.”
Jeneath Wong: International Star
Most notably, she three-peated as the Victoria Junior Amateur Champion (20′-22′), won Australian Girls Amateur and Victorian Junior Masters (21′, 22′), repeated as Riverside Club Champion (20′, 21′) and won the Women’s Australian Master of the Amateurs, Portsea and Port Phillip Open Amateurs and Sukan (Sukma) Malaysia (22′), according to the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking.
She’s been playing golf since the age of 3, and similarly to Csapo and Wynalda, it was due to her father’s influence, Wong said.
“I decided to play golf because my dad used to play when I was younger,” Wong said. “He always brought me to the driving range, and one day, I just wanted to try it out, and ever since then, I just love the game.”
Pepperdine signed Wong on Nov. 11, 2021, and she joined the roster in January of 2023. In high school, Wong won the Rising Star award for four consecutive years (17′-20′), and when Women’s Golf Head Coach Laurie Gibbs signed her, Wong was ranked as high as No. 115 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, according to a Pepperdine Athletics article.
Wong credits the jump in ranking with consistency. She drives a lot of her balls, keeping them in areas that give her the best field of play she said.
“I hit it quite often to the fairway, to the greens,” Wong said. “That’s a strength to my game.”
Wong averaged 72.72 strokes in her rookie season across seven events and 22 rounds. She found herself with six top 20 finishes, four being in the top 10; however, she failed to win an event, according to the 22-23 Women’s Golf Statistics.
She also feels as if she has little to no weaknesses, and she said she hopes everyone who watches her play walks away knowing that even though she may be small, she packs a punch.
“I’m not at a disadvantage,” Wong said. “Even though I’m small because I’m only 5’1, I can still play to the level of a person you would see double my size.”
Wong said her big goal is to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. In the meantime, she needs to take baby steps, and Wong said the goal for this season is to go back to the NCAA Championship, this time not walking away empty-handed.
“This year I want to try to win,” Wong said.
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