April 12, 2013
TEMPE - The #3 Arizona State University water polo team will conclude the 2013 regular season at home on Saturday, April 13 as the Sun Devils take on #10 San Jose State at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe, Ariz., at Noon PT. The team will recognize its five seniors at the competition, a class that consists of Shannon Haas, Alicia Brightwell, Amanda Young, Bella Morrison and Searra Silverberg. ASU enters the weekend with a 24-5 record overall and would match the school record for victories with a win over the Spartans. A win would also guarantee the best conference regular season record in school history as ASU would finish the year 4-2 in the MPSF.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
The Sun Devils will take on San Jose State for the first time this season. Last year, the ASU downed the Spartans, 10-8, in a hard-fought battle in San Jose. SJSU enters the weekend with a 10-9 record overall and are 0-4 in MPSF competition. The Spartans are paced by two underclassmen in frosh Rae Lekness and sophomore Tima Molnar, who have scored 43 and 41 goals this season, respectively.
LAST TIME OUT - BROWN TOURNAMENT
Arizona State went a perfect 5-0 at the Brown Tournament this past weekend, improving to 24-5 on the season. ASU defeated Marist, Brown, Harvard, Michigan and Hartwick by a combined score of 67-30 and are now one win away from tying the school record for wins. ASU got a tough match from the #15 Wolverines, trailing after the first quarter but rebounding to take the game in a 10-8 victory. #20 Hartwich also gave ASU a slight run, but the Sun Devils prevailed in a 10-7 decision.
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 56-40 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 74 goals. She now has 149 goals in her career, which is tied for currently fourth all-time at Arizona State despite having played just two seasons. Brightwell does more than just score goals, however, as her 24 assists are currently second on the team while her 68 steals on the year lead the squad and rank fifth in single-season history. Brightwell is seven goals away from setting the school record for goals scored, a mark of 81 set by Addison McGrath in 2008. Brightwell will be honored as one of five graduating senior's at this weekend's Senior Day.
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 65 goals on the season - second on the team and fourth in ASU single-season history - 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 193. 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 206 career points (goals+assists). Haas currently leads the team in multi-goal games with, and has scored three or more in seven of the last nine games.
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 12.04 and her 316 total saves are nearly 100 more than any other goalie in the league. 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 316 saves rank her fourth on ASU's single-season saves list with Caylinn Wallace's 2008 school record of 346 are within sights with at least four 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 38 assists to go with her 34 goals to give her 72 points, which is good for second on the team. Gao has also been a stalwart on the defensive end, forcing 58 steals this season - a mark that ranks sixth in ASU history. Gao has forced seven turnovers in three different games this season.
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 43 goals are currently third on the team behind Brightwell and Haas. Pardi has 64 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. While she hasn't put up gaudy per-game goal tallies in 2013, she has remained incredibly consistent, scoring multiple goals in 15 contest this season.
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 24-0 on the year when not allowing the opposition to score in double digits and has outscored the opposition 316-203 on the year. Additionally, the team has 339 steals on the season (compared to 207 turnovers) and is led by the 68 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 10.90 goals per game this year thus far and has scored in double digits in 20 out of 29 games. The teams 316 goals are not quite on pace for match last year's tally, but will still go down as the second-highest goals scored amount by the time the season is over.
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.