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Smith and Salloum selected as co-MVPs for Sun Devil water polo in 2011


May 10, 2011

The Arizona State University water polo team held its annual awards banquet on Saturday (May 7) inside the Trophy Room at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe where Head Coach Todd Clapper and his staff honored the team with awards and celebrated another season in which the Sun Devils finished seventh at the MPSF Championships and earned another Top 10 national ranking.

In a vote by the student-athletes, the Most Valuable Player award was shared by senior Lynlee Smith and junior Mariam Salloum. On the season, both women provided valuable leadership in the pool as both scored a team-high 39 goals while Smith dished out a team-high 53 assists and Salloum tied for third with 22. Salloum was seen as a ‘spark plug’ for the team throughout the season, always counter attacking, always creating in the offensive end, according to Coach Clapper while Smith developed into such a well-rounded player, improving her vision of the pool and her defense.

The MVP honor for Smith was one of four recognitions she earned on the day as she also was honored as the team’s Leader of Total Offense, Co-Lifter of the Year (shared with Nikki Unbehaun) and as a Record Breaker for assists in a season. Smith recorded 53 assists to break the single-season record formerly held by Ashley Bower (49). Always a prolific scorer, Smith was credited by Clapper for “making an effort to set up her teammates more” which led to her breaking the record. Smith also was the Leader of Total Offense as she accumulated 103 points by scoring 39 goals, assisting on 53 scores and drawing 12 kick-outs on opposing players.

The Lifter of the Year award, which both Smith and Unbehaun shared, was given by the Sun Devil Sports Performance/Strength Coaches as each student-athlete was selected as the team’s top performers in the weight room throughout the season. That work in the weight room also paid off for Unbehaun as she was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year. In February, she moved from center to defender, making a move that Clapper believes helped her “secure our defense and become one of the best defenders in the nation.”

The Most Improved award went to Amanda Young, who made the transition from being a goalkeeper for the Sun Devils last season to being an attacker, where Clapper noted her “improvement at a rapid rate.” But, midway through the season, an injury would sideline the team’s starting goalkeeper in an MPSF game against San Jose State. In that game, Young was asked to resume her duties as a goalkeeper that week and went on to anchor the defense against the Spartans.

Overall this season, the Sun Devils finished 12-14 overall and placed seventh in the MPSF Championships, marking the second-highest finish in that tournament in program history behind only a sixth-place showing in 2006. While Smith might have had the hot hand in the tournament by scoring nine goals in three games, including four in the win over No. 9 San Diego State in the seventh-place game, the team shared the scoring duties all season long as three individuals shared the scoring lead with 39 goals (Smith, Salloum and Sarah Harris) while Shannon Haas added 34 to give ASU four goal scores with 30 or more on the year. Individually, Salloum and Harris both were honored by the league as both were voted to the Honorable Mention All-MPSF team in a poll of the league coaches.

2011 Sun Devil Water Polo Awards
Most Valuable (shared) - Lynlee Smith & Mariam Salloum
Leader of Total Offense - Lynlee Smith
Defensive Player of the Year - Nikki Unbehaun
Most Improved - Amanda Young
Lifter of the Year (shared) - Nikki Unbehaun & Lynlee Smith
Record Breaker - Lynlee Smith (assists in a single season)