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Water polo heads to MPSF Championships

April 22, 2009

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The No. 8 Arizona State University water polo team (13-12, 0-7 MPSF) will head to Honolulu, Hawai'i this weekend for the MPSF Championships. The Sun Devils are the eighth seed in the tournament, and they will open with No. 1 USC, who won the conference regular season title by beating No. 2 Stanford 11-6 on April 18. ASU has already faced the Trojans three times this season, with USC winning all three.

The MPSF is home to the top eight teams in this week's Top 20 poll. Here is the schedule for the conference tournament (all times are Hawai'i time):
FRIDAY, APRIL 24 (rankings are conference seeding)
Game 1: No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 7 San Diego State 3 p.m.
Game 2: No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 6 Hawai'i 4:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 1 USC vs. No. 8 Arizona State 6 p.m.
Game 4: No. 4 California vs. No. 5 San Jose State 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 3 p.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 4:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 (Semi-Final) 6 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (Semi-Final) 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 12 p.m.
Game 10 : Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 1:30 p.m.
Game 11: Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 3 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 (Final) 5 p.m.

The Sun Devils have already played 21 games against ranked opponents this season, and they are 9-12 overall in those contests. They have three 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 and then defeating No. 9 UC Irvine 11-10 on March 29. ASU will play three more games this weekend against top 10 teams.

Arizona State is scoring goals at a record pace so far this season. The Sun Devils have scored 264 goals on the season, an average of 10.56 goals per game. They need just five goals in the three games this weekend to 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 set a single-game school record with 25 goals in their 25-6 victory over Cal Lutheran on March 29, after tying the previous single-game mark with 20 goals in their season-opening win over Colorado State on January 24. ASU has scored eight or more goals in 18 of 25 games on the season.

With two goals on April 4 against No. 5 California, senior Addison McGrath eclipsed the 50-goal mark for the third straight season. McGrath scored 54 goals in 2007, a program-record 81 last year and she currently has 52 this season. It also meant the Sun Devils would have two 50-goal scorers for the second consecutive year, as McGrath joins sophomore Lynlee Smith, who currently leads the team with 59 goals. In 2008, McGrath had 81 goals and Kelly Phelps collected 53. ASU has had a 50-goal scorer seven times since the program's inception in 2002, with six coming in the last four years under head coach Todd Clapper.

Sophomore Lynlee Smith had a brilliant weekend during the ASU Invitational on March 28-29, scoring 22 goals and adding four assists in the four games of the tournament. She began the weekend by tying her previous season-high with four goals against San Jose State on Saturday, but that would end up being her lowest output of the weekend. She scored five goals later on Saturday in a win over Santa Clara, and then she totaled 13 goals in victories over Cal Lutheran and UC Irvine on Sunday. That included tying a single-game program record with seven goals against Cal Lutheran. For her efforts, Smith was named the MPSF Mikasa Co-Player of the Week. It was the second time this season that a Sun Devil earned the honor, as Addison McGrath won the award on January 26 after scoring 13 goals in the three games of the Michigan Invitational.

After earning First-Team All-American honors in 2008, Addison McGrath has had a fantastic senior season. She has 52 goals, 22 assists and 29 steals so far this season, and she has scored a goal in 20 of the 22 games she has played in, with 15 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 31 goals, more than tripling 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.

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 21 of her first 25 career college games, including seven games with four or more goals. She tied a single-game school record with seven goals in the team's 25-6 victory over Cal Lutheran on March 29, part of a weekend at the ASU Invitational in which she scored 22 goals in four games. Smith currently leads the Sun Devils with 59 goals and 82 points, and she is second on the team with 23 assists.

Smith is not the only newcomer contributing for the Sun Devils in 2009. Freshman Mariam Salloum has started all 25 games and is fourth on the team with 46 points (25 goals and 21 assists), while sophomore Sam Schubert has also played in all 25 games, scoring 14 goals and adding seven assists. Freshman goalie Dana Harvey has collected 125 saves and stopped 43 percent of the shots she has faced while making 17 starts in the cage. Freshman Bella Morrison made her collegiate debut at the Stanford Invitational, and she has nine goals and four assists in 16 games, while fellow freshman Kelsey White has played in nine games and has two goals, two assists and three 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 226 goals and 333 points, and she will look to put the finishing touches on both records as the season concludes. McGrath also ranks second on the school's all-time assists list with 107, just 12 behind Ashley Bower, who had 119 assists from 2004-2007. In addition, she has 134 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 (109) and fifth in points (150). In addition, junior Bonnie Miles has moved to fourth on the school's all-time list with 69 assists, and she ranks eighth all-time with 115 points. Also, Mariam Salloum has climbed into the top 10 list among all freshmen in school history with her 25 goals, 21 assists and 46 points this season.

The Sun Devils already have 30 instances of a player scoring three or more goals in a game so far this season. Senior Addison McGrath has 10 of them, including a season-high five goals in the team's victory over No. 14 CS Northridge on January 24, and sophomore Lynlee Smith has eight, including a single-game school record-tying seven goals in a win over Cal Lutheran on March 29. Sophomore Nikki Unbehaun, junior Kelly Phelps and freshman Mariam Salloum also have multiple games with three or more goals on the season, while sophomore Sam Schubert recorded her first career hat trick in the victory over Cal Lutheran on March 29.

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 125 saves and stopped 43 percent of the shots she has faced while playing in 20 games (17 starts). Morris, who played in eight games last season as Wallace's backup, has seen action in nine games (five starts) in 2009 and recorded 38 saves, while Greenberg, who rejoined the team this season after redshirting in 2006 and then being out of water polo for two years, has 19 saves in six games.

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 226 goals and 333 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 1-11 all-time against USC. The two teams have played three times already this season, with the Trojans winning each time. USC won 19-9 on Feb. 7 at the Stanford Invitational, 13-4 on Feb. 21 at the UC Irvine Invitational, and 15-6 on March 14 in the teams' MPSF regular season match-up in Los Angeles.

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.