March 7, 2013
TEMPE - The #3 Arizona State University water polo teamwill look to use the momentum from the biggest win in school history as they move forward into an eventful weekend on the road that will feature two MPSF tilts in California. The Sun Devils will take on No. 1 USC on Saturday in Los Angeles before a double-header on Sunday that includes MPSF foe CSU Bakersfield and CSU Monterey Bay in Bakersfield, Calif. Saturday’s tilt will get underway at 1 p.m. PT while Sunday’s contests will kick off at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. PT, respectively.
This will be the second time this season that the Sun Devils have taken on USC. The last contest was a 13-6 victory for the Trojans in the championship final of the UCI Invitational in Irvine, Calif. The Sun Devils kept things close early on in that match but a sudden death overtime game against Cal earlier in the day eventually took its toll on the Sun Devils as USC was able to pull away down the stretch. This will mark the first time that ASU will take on CSU Bakersfield this season, the Roadrunners first as part of the MPSF Conference. ASU defeated CSUB three times last year by a combined score of 35-19. ASU last played Monterey Bay in 2011, a 16-7 victory.
LAST TIME OUT - UCLA
The #4 Arizona State University water polo team logged perhaps its greatest victory in school history, stunning #3 UCLA, 7-6, last Saturday in the team’s home and MPSF opener at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center. ASU overcame a three goal deficit in the game to stage the improbably comeback. It marked the first time in school history that ASU had defeated the Bruins and was the second upset of a top five team this season for the Sun Devils. Petra Pardi had three goals in the contest, putting ASU in the lead early in fourth quarter where they’d hold on for the victory. ASU is now 12-3 on the season and 1-0 in MPSF competition.
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
Senior Alicia Brightwell took home the MPSF scoring title last year with 75 goals on the season, good for the second-highest single season tally in school history. Brightwell’s 2.78 goals per game were also tops in the conference and her 18 games with three or more goals easily paced the Sun Devils on the season. Brightwell matched a school record with seven goals to lead ASU past San Diego State for fifth-place at the MPSF Championships last year and she became the school’s first and only First Team All-American since Addison McGrath in 2008. 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. Brightwell has 31 goals this season to lead the team - giving her 106 on her career and the eighth-best mark in school history and is the only Sun Devil to score in every game she has appeared in this year.
LUCKY NUMBER 7
Junior Shannon Haas had perhaps the best performance in the nation against the San Diego State last season as she scored a career-high seven goals from the center position to help ASU to the 12-3 upset. Haas’ seven goals tied a school record with ASU greats Addison McGrath and Lynlee Smith (and later with Alicia Brightwell also) and was the most for a single game among all MPSF student-athletes last season until Brightwell scored seven in the season finale. Haas has 26 goals on the season - second on the team - and that’s good enough for the No. 3 spot in ASU’s record book in career goals with 154. 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 has moved to eighth in career points scored with 167.
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 12.07 and her 178 saves on the season is also tops in the MPSF. She has had double-digit saves in all but two games this season.
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 14 assists to go with her 17 goals and her 31 points are good for third on the team.
PARDI IN THE USA
Three times on the 2012 season, Petra Pardi notched five goals in a game - the only freshman to ever accomplish the feat. In addition, only ASU great 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 was solid to open the 2013 season, as her 20 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 also leads the team in kickouts drawn thus far this season with 16 and her 32 points are second on the team. 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.
Anna Kertes established herself as one of the top freshman in the nation with her play in 2012. Kertes’ 47 goals were the second-most among freshmen in the conference and tied the second-highest tally in ASU history among freshmen. Her four first-half goals against No. 2 Stanford last season kept the Sun Devils in that game and the Hungarian notched two or more goals in 11 games last season. Kertes would eventually earn a spot on the MPSF All-Newcomer Team to conclude the season. Kertes showed a new facet to her game at the UCSB Winter Invite, logging eight assists in five games - nearly matching the 12 she posted in the entirety of last season. Kertes helped lead the comeback again UCLA, scoring the eventual game-winner as well as a late goal in the first half to keep ASU in the game.
IN THE RANKINGS
In the latest national CWPA Coaches Poll, the Sun Devils moved up to third in the nation and have remained in the top-5 for almost the entirety of last season and the first couple weeks of the current campaign. It marked the highest ranking for the un 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 placement 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 12-0 on the year when not allowing the opposition to score in double digits and has outscored the opposition 140-106 on the year. Additionally, the team has 174 steals on the season - led by the 40 posted by Alicia Brightwell - and is averaging over 11.60 per game in that category while giving up 9.6 turnovers per game.
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 season last year (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 9.33 goals per game to open the season thus far and has scored in double digits in eight out of 15 games.
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.