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Sun Devil water polo hosts ASU Invitational

March 23, 2009

The No. 7 Arizona State University water polo team is hosting its annual tournament this week. The Sun Devils (10-9, 0-4 MPSF) will play four games on the weekend, beginning with an MPSF conference match-up against No. 9 San Jose State on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. PT. They will also face No. 20 Santa Clara on Saturday at 5:20 p.m. ASU will then play twice more on Sunday, facing Cal Lutheran (the No. 5 team in the Division III Top 10 poll) at 9:15 a.m. before meeting No. 8 UC Irvine at 3:30 p.m.

The ASU Invitational field features six teams, including four ranked in the Top 20 poll. No. 7 Arizona State, No. 8 UC Irvine, No. 9 San Jose State and No. 20 Santa Clara will all be in the field, in addition to Cal Baptist and Cal Lutheran.

Here is the schedule for the 2009 ASU Invitational (six games each day at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center): SATURDAY: Cal Baptist vs. Cal Lutheran (9 a.m.), UC Irvine vs. Santa Clara (10:15 a.m.), ASU vs. San Jose State (11:30 a.m.), UC Irvine vs. Cal Baptist (3 p.m.), Cal Lutheran vs. San Jose State (4:10 p.m.), ASU vs. Santa Clara (5:20 p.m.).
SUNDAY: Santa Clara vs. Cal Baptist (8:15 a.m.), ASU vs. Cal Lutheran (9:15 a.m.), UC Irvine vs. San Jose State (11:30 a.m.), Santa Clara vs. Cal Lutheran (12:30 p.m.), Cal Baptist vs. San Jose State (2:30 p.m.), ASU vs. UC Irvine (3:30 p.m.)

The Sun Devils have already played 16 games against ranked opponents this season, and they are 7-9 overall in those contests. They have two victories this season over teams ranked in the top 10, beating No. 7 UC Davis 9-6 and No. 5 California 11-10 at the UC Irvine Invitational on February 21-22. ASU will play at least five more games this season against Top 20 teams, beginning this week when they face No. 8 San Jose State, No. 9 UC Irvine and No. 20 Santa Clara. They also will face road contests at No. 6 California on April 4 and at No. 5 San Diego State on April 11.

Arizona State is scoring goals at a record pace so far this season. The Sun Devils have scored 186 goals on the season, an average of 9.79 goals per game, and at that pace, they would set a new school record for team goals per game. The current record is held by the 2007 team, which averaged 9.57 goals per game while going 14-14 on the season. The Devils already tied a single-game school record by scoring 20 goals in their season-opening win over Colorado State on January 24, and they have scored eight or more goals in 12 of their 19 games.

After earning First-Team All-American honors in 2008, Addison McGrath is having a fantastic senior season. She has 48 goals, 19 assists and 20 steals so far this season, and she has scored a goal in 17 of the team's 19 games this season, with 14 multiple-goal games. McGrath was selected as the Mikasa MPSF Co-Player of the Week for the first week of the season, as she scored 13 goals, had five assists and added five steals in the team's three games at the season-opening Michigan Invitational. It was the third time in her career she earned the conference's player of the week honor, also doing so in April 2006 and in the final week of the regular season last year. In addition, McGrath's five-goal performance against No. 14 CS Northridge on January 24 was her 50th career multiple-goal game.

Sophomore Nikki Unbehaun has played a big role in her second year as a Sun Devil. She currently ranks third on the team with 22 goals, already far surpassing her freshman season total of 10. Unbehaun has three four-goal games this year, coming in victories over Bucknell on January 25, No. 12 Hartwick on February 1 and No. 5 California on February 22. The four goals against the Golden Bears helped the Sun Devils to their first win of the season over a top-five team and their first comeback victory when trailing after three quarters.

Sophomore Lynlee Smith has had a brilliant start to her collegiate career. The New Zealand native who played in the 2005 World Championships and the 2005 and 2007 Junior World Championships has made an immediate impact for the Sun Devils. She has scored goals in 16 of her first 19 career college games, including four-goal performances against Colorado State on January 24, against No. 12 Hartwick on February 1 and against No. 7 UC Davis on February 21, and she had a hat trick at No. 2 Stanford on February 8. Smith is currently second on the team with 35 goals, 18 assists and 12 multiple-goal games.

Smith is not the only newcomer contributing for the Sun Devils in 2009. Freshman Mariam Salloum has started all 19 games and is third on the team with 32 points (18 goals and 14 assists), while sophomore Sam Schubert has also played in all 19 games, scoring nine goals and adding four assists. Freshman goalie Dana Harvey has collected 112 saves and stopped 43 percent of the shots she has faced while making 16 starts in the cage. Freshman Bella Morrison made her collegiate debut at the Stanford Invitational, and she has seven goals and one assist in 13 games, while fellow freshman Kelsey White has played in six games and has one goal, one assist and two steals.

Addison McGrath has rewritten the Arizona State record books in her time on campus. She set single-season school records with her 81 goals and 123 points last season, and in the process she became the school's career leader in both categories. She currently has 222 goals and 326 points, and she will look to continue extending her hold on both records through the remainder of the season. McGrath is also within striking distance of ASU's all-time assists record. She has 104 in her career, putting her in second place and just 15 behind Ashley Bower, who had 119 assists from 2004-2007. In addition, she has 125 career steals, placing her fifth on the school's career list in that category.

McGrath is not the only Sun Devil climbing the charts in the school's record books. Junior Kelly Phelps is currently fourth in Sun Devil history in goals scored (96) and tied for fifth in points (131). In addition, junior Bonnie Miles has moved to fourth on the school's all-time list with 55 assists, and she ranks ninth all-time with 96 points. Also, Mariam Salloum currently ranks ninth among freshmen in school history with 14 assists this season.

The Sun Devils already have 20 instances of a player scoring three or more goals in a game so far this season. Senior Addison McGrath has 10 of them, as she has four three-goal games, five four-goal performances and a season-high five goals in the team's victory over No. 14 CS Northridge on January 24. Sophomore Lynlee Smith has three four-goal games and one hat trick, and sophomore Nikki Unbehaun also has three four-goal games. Freshman Mariam Salloum has two hat tricks on the season, while junior Kelly Phelps has one.

Freshman Dana Harvey, sophomore Kaitlyn Morris and junior Taylor Greenberg are combining to help the Sun Devils replace All-American goalie Caylinn Wallace this season. Wallace was a four-year starter for ASU, collecting a program-record 1,087 career saves and a single-season record 346 saves last year. Harvey has collected 112 saves and stopped 43 percent of the shots she has faced while playing in 17 games (16 starts). Morris, who played in eight games last season as Wallace's backup, has seen action in five games (two starts) in 2009 and recorded 13 saves, while Greenberg, who rejoined the team this season after redshirting in 2006 and then being out of water polo for two years, has 13 saves in four games. She made her first career start in the team's 15-3 victory over Pomona-Pitzer on March 13, collecting six saves and adding one assist and one steal in the win.

THE 200/300 CLUB
While the Sun Devils competed at the Stanford Invitational on February 7-8, senior Addison McGrath reached two numbers never before seen in Arizona State water polo history. In the team's 10-9 overtime win over No. 18 Indiana, McGrath scored four goals to give her 200 in her career. Then, the next day, against No. 10 San Jose State, she again scored four goals, and the second gave her 300 career points. The school's all-time leader in both categories, McGrath now has 222 goals and 326 points.

The Sun Devils began the season with six straight wins, setting a new school record for a season-opening win streak. They defeated Colorado State, No. 14 CS Northridge and Bucknell at the Michigan Invitational on January 24-25, beat No. 15 CS Bakersfield and No. 13 CS Northridge at the Cal Baptist Mini-Tournament on January 31 and then knocked off No. 12 Hartwick at the UC Irvine Mini-Tournament on February 1. The previous mark for longest season-opening win streak came in 2006, when ASU won four in a row to open the year.

Arizona State is 4-7 all-time against San Jose State. The Spartans and Sun Devils met earlier this season, on February 8 in the fifth-place game of the Stanford Invitational, and San Jose State defeated ASU 11-6. The teams played twice last season, with ASU winning the regular season conference match-up 7-5 in San Jose and the Spartans defeating the Sun Devils 12-8 in the MPSF Championships. Arizona State is 4-1 all-time against San Jose State in MPSF regular season games.

The Sun Devils are 5-1 in the all-time series against Santa Clara. Arizona State's first game as a varsity program was against the Broncos on Feb. 9, 2002, and Santa Clara won 8-6 in overtime. The teams have not played since 2005, a game ASU won 6-3.

This will be the first ever meeting between the Sun Devils and the Cal Lutheran Regals.

Arizona State is 7-8 all-time against UC Irvine. The teams played a four-overtime thriller last year in Irvine, with the Anteaters ultimately prevailing 10-9. UC Irvine was a member of the MPSF until this year, when they left along with Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, Pacific and UC Santa Barbara to form the Big West.

Arizona State received 13 points and was ranked seventh in the 2009 MPSF preseason women's water polo coaches' poll. USC received 48 points and six of the eight first-place votes to take the top spot, followed by Stanford and four-time defending national champion UCLA, who each got one first-place vote. Hawai'i, California and San Diego State followed, and San Jose State received the eighth position. In 2008, the Sun Devils finished tied for fifth in the MPSF regular season, their highest finish since joining the conference in 2004.

The 2009 Sun Devils have 22 players on the roster, including 10 that return from last year's squad. The returning players feature just one senior, Addison McGrath, four juniors in Jennifer Campo, Bonnie Miles, Kelly Phelps and Kari Walsh, and five sophomores in Lauren Hayes, Kaitlyn Morris, Candice Phillippe, Christy Stibbe and Nikki Unbehaun. Junior goalie Taylor Greenberg also returns to the Sun Devils this season, after having been out of water polo for the last two years. She redshirted during the 2006 season.

There are 11 newcomers on the team this season, including six international players. Dana Harvey, Bella Morrison, Sam Schubert and Lynlee Smith all come to Tempe from New Zealand, Mariam Salloum hails from Germany and Kelsey White arrives from South Africa. In addition, freshmen Aimee Bedell, Terra Debold, Kaileigh Esson, Stephanie Funston and Ashley Mercerau round out the Arizona State roster.

Mark Lawrence joins the Sun Devil coaching staff this season as the graduate assistant manager. A three-year player in the Australian National League, Lawrence comes to Tempe after spending a year as the men's assistant head coach at Ohlone Junior College in Fremont, Calif., where he played from 1999-2001.

The Sun Devils will return to the road and continue MPSF play at No. 6 California on April 4 before concluding the regular season at No. 5 San Diego State on April 11.