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Water polo opens 2010 season in California

January 27, 2010

The Arizona State University water polo team (0-0, 0-0 MPSF) opens its 2010 season this weekend on the road as the Sun Devils will travel to Irvine, Calif., for the 2010 UCI/ Bakersfield Mini Tournament on January 30. The Sun Devils will play three times Saturday, starting with Cal State Bakersfield at 9 a.m. PST. They then face Long Beach State at 1:45 p.m. before closing the weekend against the host Anteaters at 5:45 p.m.

In the field
The UCI/ Bakersfield Invitational is comprised of four teams and includes (with preseason 2010 national ranking) No. 8 Arizona State, No. 9 UC Irvine, No. 16 Long Beach State and No. 17 Cal State Bakersfield.

Good first impression
Junior attacker Lynlee Smith scored four goals in her collegiate debut, then carried that momentum through the season, finishing with a team-high 65 goals and 90 points in her debut season. She was selected to the ACWPA Honorable Mention All-American team for her effort, one of just eight players in school history to earn All-American accolades. Her most dominating performance came at the ASU Invitational when she scored 22 goals in four games, including a single-game program-record-tying seven against Cal Lutheran.

A busy summer
It was a busy July for the Sun Devils overseas as four student-athletes and Clapper competed in the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, while junior attacker Candice Phillippe played in the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. Smith, sophomore goalie Dana Harvey and Clapper represented New Zealand. Smith scored seven goals and had three assists in six games and Clapper led the squad to a third place finish in their group and 12th overall. Junior attacker Sarah Harris led South Africa in goals scored with eight, and sophomore attacker Mariam Salloum had two goals and an assist for Germany in six games.

A look back at 2009
For the first time in program history, the Sun Devils were ranked in the top-10 all last season. They moved as high as fifth in the March 4 poll and ended the season ranked 10th. The team started the season 6-0 and set a school record in average goals-per-game with 10 and a half. They had multiple All-Americans for the second season in a row as departed senior Addison McGrath was a First-Team selection and Smith collected Honorable Mention honors.

Chasing history
Senior Kelly Phelps moved into the top five in Sun Devil history in both goals scored and points in her third year in Tempe. She is fourth in goals scored with 112 and fifth in points with 155. In addition, she has 43 assists in her career, just two behind sixth place. Senior Bonnie Miles has been climbing the school's all-time list as well, finishing the 2009 season fourth in assists with 72 and eighth in points with 124.

In the rankings
Looking at the final 2010 National Collegiate Water Polo Top 20 rankings, the Sun Devils will face 11 teams ranked in that poll, including three this weekend in Irvine, Calif.

Anabelle and Sarah's excellent adventure
Sophomore attacker Annabelle Carter, a native of Sydney, Australia, and Harris, who hails from Cape Town, South Africa, joined the team in mid-January and will look to contribute immediately. Carter attended the Australia College of Physical Education in Sydney for two years and was selected to compete for the Australian U17 team in 2006 and the U20 team in 2008. Harris attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., for one year and then attended school back home in South Africa before coming to Tempe. Her team-high 102 points were tops in the MPSF, as was her 3.40 goals per game average. She was named an All-MPSF Honorable Mention, the lone freshman selected to any All-American Team.

A quantum leap
Junior center Nikki Unbehaun netted 33 goals last season, more than triple her freshman season total of 10. On top of that, she added nine assists and 15 steals, and her 42 points in 2009 were 26 more than the 16 she recorded in her debut campaign.

Hittin the books
Miles, Salloum and Unbehaun all were selected to the ACWPC All-Academic Team last season. Miles has made the ACWPC All-Academic Team all three years she has been a Sun Devil. In addition, her and senior Kari Walsh were named to their second consecutive Academic All-MPSF Team, while Unbehaun made it for the first time.

New kids on the block
The Sun Devils welcome seven freshman to the team this season; Becca Clopp, Shannon Haas, Kramer Greenberg, Morgan Leach, Searra Silverberg, Paige Walters and Amanda Young. In addition, Carter and Harris will compete in their first regular season game with the Sun Devils January 30 in Southern California.

California love
The Sun Devils may not play a home match until the end of March, but don't tell that to the players. Eleven girls are natives of California and all of their road matches are in the state of California. ASU will play invitationals at Stanford, UC Irvine and Cal Lutheran, and MPSF conference games at UCLA, Long Beach State, San Jose State and Stanford.

So international
From South Africa to Germany, there are Sun Devils all over the world. Eight players from five different countries are on the ASU roster, meaning close to half of the team hails from outside of the United States. Harvey, sophomore center Bella Morrison and Smith are from New Zealand, sophomore attacker Kelsey White and Harris grew up in South Africa, Phillippe is a native of Canada, and Salloum is from Germany.

Made for each other
Harris and Carter may have joined the team just days before the Sun Devils traveled to USC for a pair scrimmages January 16, but they proved they fit in right from the start. Harris tallied a goal in the second match against the Trojans, while Carter collected two assists and a goal on the day.

In the series: CS Bakersfield
The Sun Devils are 4-1 all-time against CS Bakersfield. They lost to the Roadrunners in 2002, in just their fourth game as an NCAA varsity team, but they have won the last four games in the series. ASU won 10-7 at the Cal Baptist Tournament on Jan. 31, 2009, the last time these two teams met.

In the series: Long Beach State
The Sun Devils have won the last four meetings in a row against the 49ers after dropping the first seven games of the series, bringing the series record to 7-4 in favor of Long Beach St. ASU defeated the 49ers 9-6 in a MPSF Conference game in Long Beach last season. The Sun Devils are 1-4 all-time in games played against the 49ers in Long Beach, including a 1-2 record in league games.

In the series: UC Irvine
The Sun Devils and the Anteaters each have won 8 games in the series between the two teams. ASU lost 10-9 in four overtimes the last time they faced UCI on March 8, 2009. That's the second time these teams have battled to four overtimes, with the first coming in 2006 as ASU won in four overtimes during the MPSF Championships held at UCI. The Sun Devils are 2-3 all-time against UCI in Irvine and 0-3 in league games.

Next time out
The Sun Devils face three MPSF Conference foes February 6-7 at the annual Stanford Invitational. They kick off the weekend on Saturday against No. 4 Hawaii at 10:50 a.m. and conclude the day versus No. 5 Cal at 5:15 p.m. ASU will play No. 3 UCLA at 9:10 a.m. on Sunday.