April 3, 2013
TEMPE - The #3 Arizona State University water polo team returns from its bye week this weekend as the team heads back east for the Brown Tournament in Providence, R.I. The Sun Devils will take part in five games over three days in its final regular season tournament of the year. ASU will square off with Marist to open things on Friday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. ET before taking part in a double header on Saturday with matches against Brown (12:30 p.m. ET) and #20 Hartwick (5:30 p.m. ET). The Sun Devils will round out the weekend against #15 Michigan (9:15 a.m. ET) and Harvard (12:30 p.m. ET). A sweep of the weekend would put ASU in position to tie the program record in wins when it returns home the following weekend for Senior Day on April 13 against San Jose State.
ASU will have two ranked foes on its plate this weekend in #15 Michigan and #20 Hartwick. The Sun Devils defeated the Hawks at the ASU Invitational two weekends ago with a stifling defensive effort and a 12-3 outcome. Michigan also took part in the tournament but the two teams did not play. ASU last played Michigan last season, defeating the Wolverines 14-5 at the UCI Invitational. ASU last played Brown in 2011, a 15-5 victory at a neutral site and one would have to go back to 2005 for the last match against Marist, an 11-1 rout in favor of the Sun Devils. The last contest against Harvard came all the way back in 2003, with ASU coming out victorious in a 7-2 decision.
LAST TIME OUT - ASU INVITATIONAL
The third-ranked ASU water polo team went 3-1 in its home ASU Invite n Tempe, routing Colorado State (17-7), Hartwick (12-3) and Pomona-Pitzer (15-3) but falling short against #2 Stanford, 17-7. Shannon Haas was nigh unstoppable on the weekend, scoring 15 goals over the course of the weekend, including five against Colorado State. She also forced a career-high five saves to go along with three goals in the losing effort against Stanford. The Sun Devils improved to 19-5 on the season with the performance.
The Sun Devils have found themselves in a handful of games that have come down to the wire this season, but have always managed to find a way to come out on top. ASU is 5-0 this year in games decided by a goal following the exciting victory over #5 Cal on Pac-12 Networks. ASU has come out on top twice over Cal by a goal this year while also knocking off UCLA by a goal for the first time in program history earlier this year. ASU also has had two tight games against UC Irvine, winning both by a goal - including a sudden victory game earlier this season. In head coach Todd Clapper’s career, he is 27-20 in all games decided by a goal and 54-40 in all games decided by three goals or less.
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
A year removed from the MPSF scoring title and First-Team All-America honors, senior Alicia Brightwell is starting to find her stroke at the right time for the Sun Devils. Brightwell scored 16 goals in five games at the UCSB Winter Invite to open the season and was named the MPSF Player of the Week for the performance, making it the fourth time in her career she had earn such honors. She has maintained that consistency throughout the season as she has scored in all but one game this season. Brightwell currently leads the MPSF with 59 goals. She now has 134 goals in her career, which is tied for fifth all-time at Arizona State despite having played only about a season-and-a-half. Brightwell does more than just score goals, however, as her 20 assists are currently second on the team while her 54 steals on the year lead the squad.
LUCKY NUMBER 7
Already a prominent notation in the ASU record-book following her seven-goal performance against San Diego State last season - a record she shares with ASU greats Shannon Haas is well on pace towards establishing herself as one of the top players in Arizona State history. Haas has 50 goals on the season - second on the team - and has taken sole possession of the second spot on ASU’s all-time goals scored list. Only Addison McGrath’s 237 goals have topped her 178. Haas scored the sudden-victory game winner against UC Irvine at the Triton Invitational earlier this year and is just one goal out of second all-time in ASU’s record books in scoring. Additionally, Haas ranks fifth in ASU history with 191 career points (goals+assists). Haas currently leads the team in multi-goal games with 15, scoring three or more in each of the four games as part of the ASU Invitational.
KEEVE-IN’ IT REAL
A redshirt freshman goalkeeper making her first career start at the DI level might make even the most stone-faced of coaches a bit nervous when it comes to opening a season. Turns out the Sun Devils had nothing to worry about in E.B. Keeve, who was phenomenal in her debut in the cage at the UCSB Winter Invite. Keeve stopped 66 shots while playing every minute in the team’s effort at the UCSB Invite. Keeve had five games with double-digit saves while averaging 11 saves her game. Her 6.00 goals against average was stellar and she was phenomenal in allowing just four goals and posting 12 saves in a 5-4 victory over #6 UC Irvine. The performance garnered her MPSF Newcomer of the Week accolades and helped the Sun Devils to a sweep of the weekly honors following their performance in the opening weekend.
MORE ON E.B.
As if the season opener wasn’t a good enough start for the freshmen, Keeve would go on to be exceptional at the Triton Invitational. Keeve had 53 saves over the course of the four games while allowing just 27 goals – good for an exceptional .663 save percentage. The youngster’s biggest achievement was a monstrous 18-save game against No. 6 UC Irvine, which was good enough for the third-best single-game performance in school history. The effort earned Keeve her second Newcomer of the Week honor, making her the first player in school history to accomplish the feat. She’d go on to earn the honor yet again following ASU’s victory over UCLA. Thus far this season, Keeve leads the conference in saves per game with 11.74 and her 221 saves on the season is also tops in the MPSF. She has had double-digit saves in all but three games this season, though it should be noted she only played three quarters of one of those. Her 259 saves already rank her fourth on ASU’s single-season scoring list, with at least nine games left to play.
GAO GETTING IT DONE
With two Olympiads and a year of Division I water polo under her belt, sophomore Gao Ao could be primed for a breakout sophomore campaign. The Beijing native was cool as the other side of the pillow in a tight game against UC Irvine, scoring two important goals in a 5-4 victory over the #6 Anteaters. Gao had a hat trick against Cal Baptist to open the season and her seven goals this year are currently fourth on the team. The two-meter defender leads the team this season with 28 assists to go with her 29 goals to give her 45 points, which good for second on the team.
PARDI IN THE USA
Three times on the 2012 season, Lynlee Smith had ever scored five or more goals in a game on three separate occasions in one season before Pardi. Pardi’s 30 goals last year ranked 10th in ASU freshmen history. Pardi has been solid in the 2013 season, as her 30 goals are currently third on the team behind Brightwell and Haas. She had three in a 10-7 victory over top-20 ranked UCSB. Pardi has 51 points on the season, which currently ranks her fourth on the current Sun Devil roster. Pardi was the catalyst for ASU’s huge come-from-behind victory to upset UCLA, scoring three goals in the second half - including the one that put ASU out in front to stay - as the team knocked off the Bruins for the first time in school history. Pardi was named the MPSF Athlete of the Week for the performance. Pardi also earned the game-winner for the Sun Devils in the victory at #5 Cal as she continues to show her clutch ability in big games.
Alicia Brightwell against #19 Hartwick, scoring four goals alongside four assists in her best game as a Sun Devil to date.
IN THE RANKINGS
In the latest national CWPA Coaches Poll, the Sun Devils remained third in the nation and have remained in the top-5 for almost the entirety of last season and the whole of the current campaign. The current placement is highest ranking for the Sun Devils in program history. ASU spent four weeks at the No. 4 position last year, easily it’s longest streak at the spot in school history and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the country - the highest final ranking in school history.
DEFENSE WINS BALL GAMES
Defense will win you games in just about any sport and water polo is no exception. While the Sun Devils dominated their opponents on the offensive side last year - outscoring the opposition 376-211 on the year - it was a stifling defense that has helped pace that run. This season, ASU is 19-0 on the year when not allowing the opposition to score in double digits and has outscored the opposition 250-173 on the year. Additionally, the team has 274 steals on the season (compared to 204 turnovers) and is led by the 51 posted by Alicia Brightwell.
BUT OFFENSE DOESN’T HURT
For the biggest difference between last year’s team and the previous ASU squad, one need look no further than the goals scored category. Through the entire 2011 season (MPSF Championships included), the Sun Devils notched just 247 goals. In 2012, ASU found the back of the net 376 times - easily good enough for the school record in the category. ASU is averaging a solid 10.42 goals per game this year thus far and has scored in double digits in 15 out of 24 games. The teams 250 goals are not quite on pace for match last year’s tally but this weekend’s games present a great opoortunity to gain some ground.
A LOOK BACK - 2012 SEASON
The 2012 campaign was a monumental year for the Sun Devil water polo team. The squad set a new school record with 25 wins on the season and the team’s fifth-place finish at the MPSF Championships was tops in school history. The team tallied 376 goals on the year, also good for a new school record and the high-powered offense tallied 15 or more goals on nine separate occasions on the year. The team earned its first MPSF victory since 2008 while five different student-athletes scored 40 or more goals on the year for the first time in school history.