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No. 8 water polo host to MPSF foes this weekend

February 13, 2008

After finishing seventh at the Stanford Invitational and recording the biggest upset in women's college water polo over the weekend, the No. 8 Arizona State University water polo team will open its home season this weekend with its first of two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) games at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe. The Sun Devils (8-3, 0-0 MPSF) will play host to No. 3 USC (4-2, 0-0 MPSF) at noon on Sunday before facing No. 4 Hawai'i (5-2, 2-0 MPSF) in a mid-week contest starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

With its 8-5 victory over No. 2 USC at the Stanford Invitational, Arizona State climbed to No. 8 in the national rankings, its highest position in the polls since also being ranked No. 8 on April 4 last year. This week's ranking also is close to the highest position the Sun Devils have held in its history as the team was ranked No. 6 for a five week span (final three weeks of 2006 and the first two of 2007).

In the latest national Top 20 rankings, 14 of the other 19 teams (Arizona State is No. 8) already have or will be opponents of the Sun Devils this season, including the entire Top 7 and eight of the Top 10 teams. UCLA (No. 1), Stanford (No. 2) and USC (No. 2) hold the top positions this week with No. 4 Hawai'i and No. 5 California rounding out the Top 5.

The Sun Devils, ranked 10th at the time, went 2-2 at the Stanford Invitational and finished seventh overall last weekend. The highlight came in the first of two games on Sunday as Arizona State handed No. 2 USC an 8-5 defeat, marking the highest ranked foe ASU has defeated in program history. The win, ASU's first over a Top 3 team in 23 tries against the nation's Top 3 programs, surpassed the Sun Devils' 8-5 defeat of then-No. 4 Hawai'i at the 2006 Stanford Invitational.

Arizona State's win over USC was not only historic for the Sun Devils as their highest ranked opponent they have defeated, but it also marked the first time since the NCAA began sponsoring a national tournament (2001) that a team outside of the Top 5 has knocked off a team in the Top 3 while also becoming just the fourth program to defeat USC in that span. The only other time a team other than UCLA or Stanford has defeated USC since 2001 was when No. 4 Hawai'i scored a 10-9 defeat of the top-ranked Trojans at the MPSF Championships in Irvine (April 29, 2006). Loyola Marymount, ranked fifth and seeded third at the NCAA Championships, was the other team outside of the Top 3 to defeat a Top 3 team when it upset No. 2 Stanford in the national semifinals at the 2004 tournament in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Sun Devils will look to continue a trend it started during the 2006 season this weekend as No. 3 USC comes to town following the upset loss to Arizona State at Stanford. Back in 2006, the No. 11 Sun Devils opened the Stanford Invitational with an 8-5 upset of No. 4 Hawai'i before finishing seventh in the event. After the tournament, the Sun Devils' first opponent was Hawai'i, at home, in their first MPSF game of the year, in which ASU won, 8-7.

Arizona State is 3-3 all-time in its first home game of the season and is 2-2 in its first home MPSF contest. Last year, the Sun Devils fell to No. 1 Stanford, 12-7, in Tempe, to snap a two-game home-opener winning streak. In 2006, ASU upset No. 5 Hawai'i, 8-7, after knocking off No. 13 UC Irvine, 5-3, in its first home game of the 2005 season. Overall, ASU carries a 23-25 all-time record at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center with an 11-12 record in MPSF games.

Standing 8-3 this season, the Sun Devils have tied the program record for best start as both the 2006 and 2008 squads opened the year 8-3. Both teams also posted six-game winning streaks during that span and placed seventh at the Stanford Invitational.

Addison McGrath moved into the fifth position on the MPSF scoring list this week with her 2.27 goals per game average. Overall, McGrath has scored 25 goals in 11 games, one shy of conference leader Katie Rulon (UCLA), who has scored 26. Defensively, Caylinn Wallace is ranked second in the league with 9.64 saves per game while her 106 total saves ranks as the most in the MPSF. As a team, the Sun Devils are second with 108 goals scored, rank eighth with 9.82 goals scored per game and are fifth in allowing 6.45 goals per game.

In 11 games this season, junior All-American Addison McGrath has scored 25 goals, including four each against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Concordia and No. 2 USC. Her 118 goals currently rank second all-time in Arizona State history. The third player to score 100 or more in a career, McGrath leads the team this season with 39 points on 25 goals and 14 assists. Her 100th goal came at the Michigan Invitational against Indiana.

With her performances over the weekend, Addison McGrath continued to build upon her solid career numbers that include her scoring at least one goal in 57-of-67 games played while marking the 19th time she has scored three or more in a contest.

Of the nine freshmen on the 2008 roster, five saw their first minutes of playing time at the Michigan Invitational. Nikki Unbehaun (four games) and Candice Phillipe (three) started for the Sun Devils while Christy Stibbe, Lauren Hayes and goalie Kaitlyn Morris each saw action during the weekend. At the Stanford Invitational, Kristen Wagner also saw her first playing time of the year.

Senior goalie Caylinn Wallace turned in a stellar weekend in the cage for the Sun Devils as she posted 38 saves on the weekend, including 10 against No. 2 USC and 14 against No. 13 Michigan. Wallace, who has saved 63-percent of the shots she has faced this year and is averaging 9.64 saves per game has stopped 56-percent of the shots she has faced in her career and is averaging 9.30 saves per game.

A trio of Sun Devils climbed higher on the career record ledgers following the Lancer Invitational, including Addison McGrath in three categories. McGrath now has 112 career goals (third), 55 assists (third) and 167 total points (third). Senior Katy Lawlor currently ranks sixth all-time with 65 goals and is 11 points from becoming the seventh Sun Devil to record 100 points in a career (currently has 65 goals, 24 assists and 89 points). Caylinn Wallace recorded six steals near the cage to climb to fourth on the all-time steals chart, needing 14 more to tie for third.

The Trojans hold a lead of 6-1 in the all-time series with the Sun Devils taking the most recent meeting in an 8-5 decision over the No. 2 Trojans at the Stanford Invitational last weekend.

The Rainbow Wahine hold a 4-2 advantage in the series and won the last meeting, a 12-8 decision in Honolulu last year. The Sun Devils are 1-1 in games played in Tempe, including an 8-7 upset of UH in 2006.

The MPSF conducted a preseason poll of the 13 head coaches in the league last week with the Sun Devils receiving 56 points and the eighth-position in the poll, just three points behind seventh-ranked San Jose State. Defending champion UCLA was selected first and was followed in the Top 5 by USC, California and Stanford (tied for third) and Hawaii. The Sun Devils finished 10th in the MPSF Championships last year, which were held in Tempe.

The Sun Devils will travel to Irvine, Calif., for the 2008 UC Irvine Invitational on February 23-24. The pairings and game times have not been released yet.