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Saturday Showdown: ASU water polo hosts SDSU

April 16, 2008

The final game of the regular season is upon the No. 6 Arizona State University water polo team this weekend as the Sun Devils are set to play host to No. 5 San Diego State at noon on Saturday in what is shaping up to be a very important game. The Sun Devils (19-10, 6-5 MPSF) will look to close out the season with their 20th win of the year while solidifying the No. 6 seed in the upcoming MPSF Championships, their highest-seeding in program history. The game with the Aztecs (26-4, 8-3 MPSF) also will be Senior Day as the trio of Traci Aparicio, Katy Lawlor and Caylinn Wallace will play before the home fans one last time.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early at the pool as the game between the Sun Devils and Aztecs will not be the only show in town. Also scheduled on campus that day will be Pat's Run in the morning followed by the football team's Spring Game (1 p.m.) at Sun Devil Stadium. Also slated for Saturday will be softball at home against rival Arizona, baseball at home against Oregon State and men's tennis at home against Arizona.

In the latest release of the National Collegiate Women's Top 20 rankings, the Sun Devils climbed one position to No. 6, equalling the highest ranking in program history. The last time the Sun Devils held the No. 6 ranking was the final three rankings of the 2006 season and the first two of the 2007 season. This week marks the seventh in a row that ASU is a member of the Top 10 nationally.

With one game remaining, the Sun Devils are currently in sixth place in the MPSF with a 6-5 record. UCLA, Stanford, USC, San Diego State and Hawai'i have clinched the Top 5 seeds in the tournament that will be held at SDSU next weekend with ASU's game this week being very important. If the Sun Devils win, they will improve to 7-5 in the league and claim the No. 6 position, their highest finish in program history. Should they lose to the Aztecs, the Sun Devils would need UC Irvine to fall at Long Beach State (Thursday) for ASU to remain in sixth. Otherwise, ASU would fall into a three-way tie for sixth with UCI and California and would slip to eighth based on a tie-breaker (goal differential).

Saturday's game will be the final home contest in the playing careers of three seniors: Traci Aparicio, Katy Lawlor and Caylinn Wallace. All three have played a significant role in building the Sun Devil program to where it is today, including pushing the team to its highest ranking of No. 6 in each of the last three seasons and placing the program among the top teams in the nation each year. During their rookie campaigns, the Sun Devils were ranked all year, sitting between 16-19. That all changed in their sophomore seasons as the Sun Devils have been ranked in the Top 10 in 29 of the last 46 polls. As a class, these seniors have collected 59 victories in their time in Tempe and will look for No. 60 on Saturday.

With its 12-5 defeat of No. 15 CS Northridge last weekend in Tempe, Arizona State pushed its record winning streak to eight in a row (which was ended one day later at No. 1 UCLA) and also collected its sixth league victory of the year, which stands as the most in a single season, ahead of the five victories earned each of the past two seasons.

The Sun Devils have recorded 19 wins so far this season and one more would equal the program record for wins in a season at 20, set in 2003 when the team went 20-18.

The Sun Devils are currently 6-2 in games played at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, placing them one win shy of tying the single-season record in regular season games with last year's squad that went 7-3. The 2007 team finished the year with an 8-5 record in Tempe with one win and two losses coming in the MPSF Championships it hosted.

So far this season, the Sun Devils have recorded upset wins over a pair of Top 5 ranked foes, including an 8-5 win over No. 2 USC at the Stanford Invitational and an 8-7 defeat of No. 4 California at home. The wins marked the first for Arizona State over those foes in the history of the program. Heading into the season, the Sun Devils had only defeated at Top 5 team three total times. Those wins included victories over No. 5 San Diego State in 2007 (8-7 at home), No. 5 Hawai'i in 2006 (8-7 at home) and No. 4 Hawai'i again in 2006 (8-5 at the Stanford Invitational).

Speaking of the Top 5, Arizona State's Saturday showdown with No. 5 San Diego State will mark the 10th time the Sun Devils have faced a Top 5 team this year. The Sun Devils are 2-9 in games with the Top 5 this season.

The Sun Devils are 2-6 all-time against the Aztecs and have lost two in a row, including a 7-5 setback this season at the UC Irvine Invitational. Arizona State is 2-1 all-time in Tempe and has won the last two meetings in the Valley of the Sun, including their first win over San Diego State in home league play. The Sun Devils won, 8-7, over No. 5 SDSU last year at the ASU Invitational (non-conference) and took a 5-4 victory over the No. 8 Aztecs in the home finale in 2006.

Addison McGrath continues to lead the MPSF with 70 goals scored and ranks second with a 2.50 goals per game average while Pacific's Kellie Fletcher leads the way with a 2.52 goals per game average. Defensively, goalie Caylinn Wallace leads the league in both saves (302) and saves per game average (10.41). As a team, the Sun Devils rank seventh overall with a 9.31 scoring average and are fifth in total goals scored with 270. On the defensive side, Arizona State stands sixth overall with a 7.07 goals allowed per game average while its 205 goals allowed are the eight-most in the league.

According to the latest national rankings, Addison McGrath and Caylinn Wallace continue to shine as both are in the Top 12 of their respective categories. McGrath is 12th in the nation with 70 goals scored while Wallace stands fifth overall with 302 saves on the year.

Through 29 games this year, the Sun Devils have scored 270 goals, the most in a single season, surpassing the 268 tallied last year in 28 games. Based on goals per game average, this year's Sun Devils trail the 2007 team, 9.31 to 9.57.

Addison McGrath scored four goals at No. 8 San Jose State on March 1, all of which came in the second quarter. It was her second goal in that game, however, that is historic as it gave her 135 for her career and the school's scoring record, surpassing the 134 scored by Katie HedleyRowie Webster, who held the single-season goal record of 63 that she scored in 2006. McGrath currently has score 70 goals. (2004-07). Then, at the ASU Invitational, McGrath took over another scoring record as she netted two goals against No. 19 UC San Diego (March 30) for season scores No. 63 and No. 64. Her second goal broke a tie with her and

Caylinn Wallace recorded 17 more saves in the win over CS Northridge last weekend, giving the senior goalie her 15th double-digit save total of the season. The single-season record-holder with 302 stops this year, Wallace ranks fifth nationally in total saves and currently leads the MPSF in both saves and saves per game average, stopping 10.31 per outing.

Wallace recorded 43 saves in four games at the ASU Invitational (March 29-30), including 17 against CS San Bernardino, but it was the last of eight saves she made against Cal Baptist that was special as that stop, which came in the fourth quarter, was the 1,000th of her career.

So far this season, Bonnie Miles has recorded 29 saves, the fifth-most in a single season and brought her career total to 36, the eighth-best in school history. With one more assist, Miles would become the fifth player to record 30 or more assists in a single season while four more would make her only the sixth Sun Devil to record 40 in a career.

With her final home game on the slate this weekend, senior Katy Lawlor is close to moving up in several categories. On the season ledger, she needs three goals to tie for ninth with 39 while four goals would make her only the eighth player to record 40 or more in a year. On the career side, she is tied for fourth with 89 goals while standing 10th in career saves at 34. Her 123 points are the sixth most and just two from tying for fifth all-time.

Three players are close to moving up on the single season ledgers, including Addison McGrath, who needs nine assists to tie for the single season record; McGrath needs nine steals to tie for 10th at 49; Bonnie Miles needs six assists to move into third with 35; and Lauren Hayes needs two assists to move into ninth on the single season freshman lists.

On the career lists, Addison McGrath needs one steal to reach the 100 steal total while Amanda Stepp needs three points to move into the Top 10 all-time. Traci Aparicio is five assists from a spot in the Top 10 while Kelly Phelps needs nine points to become the eighth Sun Devil to score 100 points or more in a career.

The victory at UC Santa Barbara on April 5 not only extended the Sun Devils' winning ways, it also gave the program a historic win as the team recorded its 100th victory. Arizona State, who has been playing at the varsity level since the 2002 season, is now 101-112 all-time.

The Sun Devils have defeated three teams ranked higher than them this season, including an 8-5 defeat of then-No. 2 USC at the Stanford Invitational, a 7-5 defeat of No. 8 San Jose State in San Jose, Calif., and an 8-7 victory over No. 4 California last time out in Tempe. The Sun Devils were ranked No. 10 in the first two upset victories this year and moved up to No. 8 before downing the Golden Bears.

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.

With their win over No. 4 California (8-7), the Sun Devils recorded just their fifth all-time win against a team ranked No. 5 or higher and won for the second time this year. Entering the season, Arizona State had not defeated a No. 2 team (W, 8-5, USC) and was 1-7 all-time against the No. 4 team before downing Cal.

While the team took the weekend off a few weeks ago, Addison McGrath was still competing, picking up a javelin for the ASU Track & Field team. McGrath recorded a toss of 44.34m (145-06) to place fifth in her first competition in the event and move into the No. 4 spot on ASU's all-time Top 10 list. Her mark also qualified her for the NCAA West Region Championships, the qualifier for the NCAA Track & Field Championships.

The Sun Devils will travel to San Diego next weekend (April 24-27) to compete in the MPSF Championships. Their first round opponent and game time will be announced next week after all seedings are completed.