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Water polo hits road to face UC Irvine, Long Beach State

March 06, 2008

The Arizona State University water polo team (11-8, 1-3 MPSF) returns to the road this weekend for a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) games as the Sun Devils, ranked No. 8 this week, are set to face No. 9 UC Irvine (9-6, 2-3 MPSF) and No. 13 Long Beach State (7-8, 2-2 MPSF). The Sun Devils and Anteaters play at noon Saturday in Irvine before ASU closes out the trip with a noon Sunday game with the 49ers in Long Beach.

Addison McGrath scored four goals at No. 8 San Jose State, all of which came in the second quarter, for her 11th multiple-goal game of the year. It was her second goal, however, that is historic as it gave her 135 for her career and the school's scoring record, surpassing the 134 scored by Katie Hedley (2004-07). McGrath, who has 139 career scores, netted six total goals on the weekend and has 46 for the year, the most in the MPSF.

To take over the scoring record, McGrath has scored at least one goal in 63 of her 74 career games played and tallied two or more 37 times. She has recorded games with three or more on 22 occasions, including eight games with three, 13 games with four and one game with seven, a school-record. Comparatively, former scoring champion Katie Hedley scored multiple goals in 42 games with only 14 games of three or more goals.

With 46 goals and 70 points, Addison McGrath ranks fifth in single season totals so far this year and could break the records this year. The record for goals in a season is 63 by Rowie Webster in 2006 (McGrath had 54 last year) and 88 points, which McGrath set last year in 28 games played.

Following their conference split over the weekend (W, 7-5 at No. 8 San Jose State and L, 12-6 at No. 2 Stanford), the Sun Devils climbed two positions in the latest national rankings (released March 5) to No. 8. ASU was No. 10 last week after falling from No. 8 with a 2-2 showing at the UC Irvine Invitational. This week's opponents are both ranked, including No. 9 UC Irvine and No. 13 Long Beach State.

In the latest national Top 20 rankings, 15 of the other 19 teams (Arizona State is No. 10) already have or will be opponents of the Sun Devils this season, including the entire Top 5 and nine of the Top 10 teams. UCLA (No. 1), Stanford (No. 2) and California (No. 3) hold the top positions this week with No. 4 USC and No. 5 Hawai'i rounding out the Top 5.

Through games played last weekend, each MPSF team has played at least two league games with UCLA (4-0), Stanford (3-0), Hawai'i (3-0) and USC (3-0) remaining undefeated. The Sun Devils are 1-3 and tied for ninth with San Jose State. This week's opponents are just above the Sun Devils with Long Beach State tied for sixth with a 2-2 record and UC Irvine in eighth with a 2-3 record.

Addison McGrath moved up to No. 2 on the league scoring chart with her six goals scored, bringing her average to 2.42 goals per game. Only Pacific's Kellie Fletcher (3.08) is higher. McGrath does lead the league in goals scored currently with 46 goals while Fletcher is second with 40. Defensively, Caylinn Wallace is second in save percentage at 9.47 saves per game while her 180 stops is the most in the MPSF. As a team, the Sun Devils stand eighth in scoring with 9.16 goals per game while sitting seventh in defense, allowing 7.32 goals per game. UCLA leads both categories, averaging 13.06 goals per game scored while allowing just 4.89 to be scored.

The game with Long Beach State will be the second time the two teams have met this season with the first resulting in a 12-8 victory for the Sun Devils at the UC Irvine Invitational. In that game, Katy Lawlor scored three goals while rookies Lauren Hayes and Nikki Unbehaun each scored twice while Bonnie Miles added two as well.

Arizona State and UC Irvine will be meeting for the 16th time in the history of the series, by far the most meetings between ASU and any of its opponents in the nearly seven years the program has played at the varsity level. The next closest would be both Pacific and UC Santa Barbara: ASU has played each team 11 times.

The Sun Devils hold a slim 8-7 advantage in the series with the Anteaters and lost the last meeting, 13-12, in Tempe during the MPSF Championships last year. If that score looks familiar, it should because that was the winning score for ASU in four overtime during the MPSF Championships held at UCI in 2006. The Sun Devils are 2-2 all-time against UCI in Irvine and 0-2 in league games.

The 49ers lead the all-time series, 7-3, but the Sun Devils have won the last three meetings, including a 12-8 decision two weeks ago at the UCI Invitational. The last time the Sun Devils lost to the 49ers was also the last time the two teams met in an MPSF contest in Long Beach, a 7-6 decision in two overtime. The Sun Devils are 0-4 all-time in games played against the 49ers in Long Beach, including an 0-2 record in league games.

Several Sun Devils are closing in on joining the Top 10 record list, half of which are looking to add their names to the career ledger. Katy Lawlor has 31 career assists and needs one more to tie for 10th all-time while Amanda Stepp (79) is four points away from tying for 10th. Kelly Phelps has scored 48 career goals and needs eight more to tie for ninth. On the freshman lists, Lauren Hayes has 13 goals and needs one more to tie for 10th while Candice Phillippe (nine) and Kristen Wagner (eight) are two and three assists away, respectively, from tying for 10th on the rookie chart.

The Sun Devils have defeated two teams ranked higher than them this season, including an 8-5 defeat of then-No. 2 USC at the Stanford Invitational and a recent 7-5 defeat of No. 8 San Jose State in San Jose, Calif. The Sun Devils were ranked No. 10 in both games.

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.

Standing 10-7 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.

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 Phillippe (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.

With her fourth of six saves against No. 6 San Diego State at the UC Irvine Invitational, goalie Caylinn Wallace recorded the 900th save in her Sun Devil career. Wallace ended the weekend (including the Hawai'i game and four at the UCI event) with 48 saves in all.

The 2008 Sun Devil roster features 18 players, including nine that return from the 2007 squad. The returning players feature three seniors in Traci Aparicio, Katy Lawlor and Caylinn Wallace, one junior in Addison McGrath and five sophomores in Jennifer Campo, Bonnie Miles, Kelly Phelps, Amanda Stepp and Kari Walsh.

The second half of the squad is comprised of nine freshmen; Lauren Hayes, Elizabeth McCoy, Kaitlin McCoy, Kaitlyn Morris, Candice Phillipe, Angela Salgado, Christy Stibbe, Nikki Unbehaun and Kristen Wagner.

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.

ASU will play host to No. 3 California next Saturday at noon to begin a streak of five home games in a row. Two weekends later, the Sun Devils will play host to the ASU Invitational and will open the event on March 29 against Pacific in an MPSF game.