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TEMPE – The Arizona State University water polo team continues to show the signs of its meteoric rise as one of the top programs in nation as six student-athletes with Sun Devil ties will competing at the 2013 FINA World Water Polo Championships, beginning this weekend in Barcelona, Spain.
Three alumni, two incoming freshmen and one current student-athlete will be in action beginning Sunday, representing five different countries. Lynlee Smith (New Zealand), Rowie Webster (Australia) and Kelsey White (South Africa) represent the ASU alumni in action with Izabella Chiappini (Brazil) and Alkistis Benekou (Greece) showing off the future of the ASU program. The Sun Devil roster is capped by current goalkeeper Ianetta Hutchinson (New Zealand).
Webster is the most prominent of the six as a multiple time World Championship competitor for the Stingers and she was one of the team’s top performers at the 2012 Beijing Olympic Games.
Webster competed for only one year as a Sun Devil, but it was an impressive one. Webster scored 63 goals as a freshman in 2006 and added 19 assists to that for 82 points on the year. Both were freshman records and both marks have not come close to being touched since her departure. Her 63 goals rank sixth all-time in single-season goals scored for the Sun Devils and she was selected as a third-team All-American by the American Water Polo Coaches Association. She was named the MPSF All-Freshmen Team, the All-MPSF Second Team and the MPSF All-Tournament team while ranking sixth in the nation in goals scored.
Smith was a three-time All-America selection for the Sun Devils, matching the most in school history. One of the team’s two Most Valuable Players in 2011, Smith scored a team-high-tying 39 goals and added 53 assists as a senior, the most in a single-season in ASU history. During the year, she tied two single-game records as she tallied nine points in two separate games on the season.
At the time of her graduation from ASU with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business/Communication), Smith was ranked second in all-time goals (155), third in assists (95) and second in points (250). She has competed for New Zealand for the past eight seasons and became the youngest player at 17 to represent the nation when she competed at the Senior World Championships in 2005.
White was a a 2012 graduate of the Sun Devil program and finished her senior season with 32 goals and moved herself to 10th on ASU's all-time points scored list with 152 (89 goals, 63 assists) at the time of graduation while in the process serving as team captain and one of the squad's top defenders on the year.
Hutchinson was the Sun Devils’ starting goalkeeper as a freshman and sophomore but a hand injury prior to the start of the 2013 season limited her time in the pool. Nonetheless, Hutchinson is one of the team’s top student-athletes, maintain a 4.00 GPA in psychology. She is currently ranked third in school history for single season saves with 282 back in 2012 and her 469 career saves are currently second in school history. She is making her first appearance with the senior national team in New Zealand and will play alongside her former teammate in Smith.
Chiappini is one of the top young talents in the world and will compete in both the senior and junior world tournaments this summer. A fast attacker with a tremendous shot and great instincts, she will join the team in January and make an immediate impact.
She has thrice lead her team to the South American championships, earning two tournament MVP honors and one top scorer honor in the process. Her team was third at the 2011 Pan-American senior games in Guadalajara and helped Brazil to an eighth-place finish at the Junior World Championships in 2012.
Benekou is also a member of both the junior and senior national teams for Greece. She will be the first Greek player to grace a Sun Devil roster and was a member of the 2012 Junior World Championship team in Perth, netting two against the United States in the semifinal contest to help her team advance to the finals.
In two seasons in the Greek senior national club division, Benekou lead her team in scoring this past season and was third in the league and was named Rookie of the Year for 2011-12. Her junior team was third at the 2012 European Junior Championships.
ASU six representatives at this year’s World Championships represent the most in a competition year in program history and is s sign of the progress the program has made since its inception just over a decade ago. ASU’s imprint on the international level is a sign of things to come for the program as it continues its ride to becoming one of the elite water polo universities in the nation.