Feb. 15, 2013
by Allie Long, ASU Media Relations
TEMPE, Ariz. - After a record-breaking 2012 season, the #5 Sun Devil Water Polo team prepares once more to enter the pool and leave a legacy. The young talent on the squad last season has now ascended both in experience and in skill and is more than ready to fill the void left by now-departed seniors Mariam Salloum, Kelsey White and Annabelle Carter.
As one class leaves and a new one takes its place, many teams find themselves without the necessary parts to make a cohesive squad, but not the Sun Devils.
"When there's a void, somebody steps up and fills it," says Clapper. The seasoned veterans, seeking to improve on last season's impressive outcome, welcome the fresh-faced newcomers while both groups capitalize on the unique fusion. Clapper's ultimate goal will be to bolster the existing talent on the team with the blooming potential of the younger members.
The blend of the raw, new talent with the confident experience of returners provides an environment in which every athlete can flourish and reach her full potential, which is sure to make for a successful and exciting 2013 season for the Sun Devils.
The #5 Sun Devils owe a lot of last season's success to the young group of players that contributed to the program. This year should be no different. With the help of a new goalie and strong, dynamic offensive and defensive newcomers, the new melting pot of Sun Devil Water Polo is sure to impress.
Occupying the goalie position is freshman, E.B. Keeve. After redshirting last year to allow time to improve, Keeve has shown dramatic maturation. Clapper explains that the new and improved Keeve is more in control of her game and "excited to play."
Currently absorbing the knowledge and training customs of the returning veterans are two freshmen, Kate Enoka. After observing Carter's adjustment to the Sun Devils' high-caliber training methods, Clapper feels she can certainly contribute.
"She's got a good head on her shoulders," Clapper said "I think she's going to be someone who will continue to grow into a bigger role."
Additionally, Enoka's time spent acclimating has paid off. The experience she has guarding in the center will be helpful to the squad's defense, while her ability to shoot from the traditionally left-handed side should be an invaluable resource.
Another pair of freshmen, Katie Sverchek and Abigail Kerth, present yet another threat to the competition. Sverchek, who Clapper describes as a utility player, is able to tackle a variety of positions to utilize a plethora of skills.
"She and Abigail do not train like freshmen," Clapper said, giving credit to the tough work ethic of the two.
Coach Clapper looks forward to the experience the freshmen will gain from the first couple weekends of action.
"I think we're going to see the freshmen come back with a different way of training and a different confidence."
While Keeve takes the reins in the goal for the time being, junior, Ianeta Hutchinson, hopes to improve her health after being injured during the offseason and be back on the Sun Devil bench. Although the team feels her absence, Hutchinson is eager to come back and is doing what she can to speed up the process.
As the team seeks to expand its depth, Hutchinson's return is highly anticipated. When she returns, the Devils will have, "two really good options at the goalkeeping position," says Clapper.
Returning as a key element on the Sun Devil team, redshirt senior, Alicia Brightwell, looks to make a big impact as an attacker. As a First Team All-American last year, Brightwell is projected to continue her creative style of play and leadership. Coach Clapper, keeping the safety of his key players in mind, states, "We've got to make sure her body doesn't break down because she trains every day like it's a game."
Another experienced player, Anna Kertes, exhibits radical signs of improvement. After examining her performance last year, Kertes has spotted areas of improvement and has capitalized on the off season training. She comes back this season with more explosive and high-powered offense that prompts Clapper to say, "I'm just really excited to see what she's going to be able to do for us this season."
Meanwhile, Coach looks forward to the continued improvement and maturation of other sophomore attackers like Petra Pardi and Makenzy Fowler, each of whom he believes have made exceptional improvements from last season and will be relied upon to fill the roles left by the departed seniors.
Fellow sophomore Liz Kreek offers a balance of attacks and an ability to shoot well on the left-hand side as well and that meshes nicely with the existing talent on the team as she continues to improve from a successful first season.
Shannon Haas, a veteran to the center position, is regarded as one of the most dominant centers in the country. As she continues to train hard, Clapper admires her improvement and says, "She's a real scoring threat from the center. That's going to create a lot of problems for people."
Gao Ao heads a defensive front that looks to limit the oppositions this year. Having experienced two Olympiads already, despite being just a sophomore, the Beijing-native offers a wealth of international experience that will be invaluable to this year's squad.
Seeking to expand on last season's success in the defensive sector of the game, the Sun Devils bring back improved players, Pardi and Kreek.
Petra Pardi's ability to balance offensive success with defensive prowess is only part of what makes her such a versatile player. Able to hone in on what it takes to win games, Pardi returns this season ready to make waves.
Having improved upon 2012's success, Liz Kreek is anticipated to pose a big defensive threat as well, giving the Sun Devils some useful talent to pull from. Amanda Young joins the group, also as a versatile defender who's shown incredible improvement. Clapper says, "To think of where she started and where she's at now, it's a real credit to the work she's put in."
So as the Sun Devils head in to their third tourney to open the competition this season, they keep both their short and long term goals on their sleeves. With the intention this season to deepen the bench, Coach Clapper continues to keep his eyes peeled for each athlete's improvement.
"We're a different team than we were last year," said Clapper, "but I feel, in most respects, we're stronger."