Water polo heads to SJSU for MPSF Tourney
The No. 11 Arizona State University water polo team will travel to the San Jose State campus this week as the Sun Devils (11-12, 0-7 MPSF) will compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships that will be held at the SJSU Aquatics Center Friday through Sunday. The eight-team tournament features most of the nation’s Top 10 ranked teams that will be battling for the conference’s automatic berth into the national tournament.
IN THE TOURNAMENT
Based on the final season standings in MPSF competition, the Sun Devils will be the No. 8 seed in the eight-team event and will open in the quarterfinals against No. 1 seed and top-ranked Stanford. The remaining tournament seeds include No. 2 California, No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 USC, No. 6 San Jose State and No. 7 San Diego State.
The MPSF Championships serve as a selection tool for entrance into the NCAA Championships that will be hosted by Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., May 13-15. The winner of the MPSF event earns an automatic berth into the national tournament while the remaining seven teams in the league will be part of a pool of potential at-large selections, which will once again be three this season. The MPSF is one of five qualifying conferences for the NCAA event, which is comprised of eight teams.
On February 4, the Sun Devil water polo team celebrated the start of their 10th year as a varsity program. Back on February 4, 2002, the Sun Devils played host to Santa Clara in a doubleheader, dropping the first game, 8-6 in overtime, before winning the second contest, 9-2, for the program’s first win at the varsity level. Throughout the season, we will look back at the previous nine seasons of varsity action at ASU as we commemorate this anniversary.
10 YEAR REWIND: APRIL 25-MAY 1
One of the more memorable games played in Sun Devil history took place on April 29, 2006, in Irvine, Calif., as the ninth-ranked and seventh-seeded Sun Devils upset seventh-ranked and sixth-seeded UC Irvine, 13-12, in four overtime periods at the MPSF Championships. Trailing 4-2 after the first quarter, 7-5 at the half and 10-9 heading into the fourth quarter, where a goal from Rowie Webster tied the game at and sent it to overtime. After ASU scored in the first extra session for its first lead since the first quarter, both teams scored again in the second overtime before UCI tied it to force sudden victory. After both teams found the post and cross bar in the first sudden victory period, the game headed to its second sudden victory session where Tessa Wyborny got in behind the defense, collected a pass, faked the goalie and lobbed the game-winning shot into the cage. Webster, who forced overtime, led the team with five goals which, at the time, tied a single-game record for ASU.
IN THE RANKINGS
In the latest national Top 20 rankings, the Sun Devils moved back up one position to No. 11 as they head to the MPSF Championships, a tournament in which all eight teams are ranked in the Top 11. The teams in the event include No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 California, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 USC, No. 5 Hawai’i, No. 7 San Jose State, No. 9 San Diego State and ASU.
HAVE WE MET?
Not only will the Sun Devils and Cardinal be meeting for the fourth time this weekend to open the MPSF Championships, the two teams will be facing one another in the first game of a tournament for the second time this year after Stanford downed Arizona State, 10-1, to open the Stanford Invitational on February 5. ASU and SU also met on the first day of the UC Irvine Invitational on February 26 with the Sun Devils falling, 15-7.
SPEAKING OF THE TOP...
When the Sun Devils face Stanford on Thursday, it will mark the fourth time Arizona State has faced the No. 1 team in the national rankings this year and the 11th time in 24 games the Sun Devils have faced a team ranked in the national Top 5. Depending upon the outcome of the ASU-SU game and the game between No. 3 UCLA and No. 4 USC (winners meet and losers meet on Friday), the Sun Devils will either face the No. 3 team in the rankings for the fourth time this year or the No. 4 team for the third time.
For the third year in a row, the Sun Devils will open MPSF Championship play by taking on the top-seed in the tournament. Last year, Arizona State fell to No. 1 Stanford, 10-5, one year removed from a 12-6 loss to No. 1 USC in the opener.
The Sun Devils are set to compete in the MPSF Championships for just the eight time in program history and will look to chase their best finish in tournament action when they placed sixth in 2006. The Sun Devils will play in the MPSF event in San Jose for the first time and sixth time in the state of California having already played in tournaments held in Los Alamitos (2004), Berkeley (2005), Irvine (2006), San Diego (2008) and Los Angeles (2010). Arizona State has finished eighth in the tournament each of the last three seasons with their remaining three appearances resulting in 10th-place showings (2004, 2005, 2007).
LAST TIME OUT: 2010 MPSF CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Sun Devils competed in the 2010 MPSF Championships in Los Angeles and lost all three games to finish eighth overall as the No. 8 seed in the tournament. Arizona State opened with No. 1 Stanford and suffered a 10-5 loss before dropping a 7-4 decision to Hawaii. In the placement game, San Jose State scored a 10-9 decision to take seventh place and end the season for the Sun Devils.
TRYING TO END THE SKID
The Sun Devils head to the MPSF Championships looking to snap a streak of nine losses in a row in the tournament, all of which came at the hands of Top 9 opponents. The last time the Sun Devils won a conference tournament game came at the 2008 event in San Diego when the sixth-seeded Sun Devils came from behind to defeat the 11th-seeded CS Northridge Matadors, 10-8.
SMITH LENDING A HAND
With three games this weekend at the MPSF Championships, senior Lynlee Smith could set a single-season record to go along with two single-game records she tied earlier this year while climbing higher on the career ledgers. With 44 assists on the year, Smith is currently ranked second in single-season helpers and needs just two to tie Ashley Bower (2007), who set the standard with 46. Smith already is part of three single-game records on the offensive side of things as her five assists against No. 20 UC San Diego (4/3/11) and her nine points on five goals and four assists against Cal Baptist (3/5/11) tie the game records at ASU. In 2009, she scored seven goals against Cal Lutheran (3/29) to tie the single-game goals record that Addison McGrath set one year prior.
GETTING THE POINTS
So far this year, Smith has tallied 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) and, with three games this weekend, her No. 8 standing on the single-season list could change. With 16 points or more over the three games, Smith could tie for second in a season with 90, the mark she posted in 2009, her first year with the program. On the career ledger, Smith is currently third with 232 points (146 goals, 86 assists) and needs just four points to tie Ashley Bower (2004-07) for second all-time. Addison McGrath leads the category with 348 points in her stellar career.
CLIMBING HIGHER - GOALS
Three current players rank in the Top 10 in career goals in program history with two women in position to move up. Currently, Lynlee Smith’s 146 goals ranks her second (McGrath, 237) while Mariam Salloum (83) and Nikki Unbehaun (81) rank ninth and 10th, respectively. Tessa Wyborny is currently eighth with 84.
CLIMBING HIGHER - ASSISTS
While Smith is third with 86 assists after moving past Bonnie Miles (84), Salloum and Unbehaun also are striking distance of those ahead of them. With five assists this weekend, Salloum would tie Wyborny for fifth with 75 while four helpers for Unbehaun would move her into a ninth-place tie with Ashley Orzalli (45).
CLIMBING HIGHER - POINTS
Along with Smith being four points out of second on the career list, Salloum also needs four points this weekend to make a move as her 153 points place her eighth all-time. Miles is seventh with 157 while Wyborny is just ahead of her in sixth with 159 points.
MORE TO THE POINTS
Speaking of points, when the Sun Devils played Fresno Pacific, they set one record, nearly toppled a second and added their result to another Top 10 as they defeated the Sunbirds, 21-5. The number of goals scored is the second-most all-time in ASU history behind the 25 scored on Cal Lutheran in 2009 while the 21 goals also is the most scored by a Sun Devil team in a neutral site contest. The 16-goal margin of victory also stands as the seventh-largest in program history.
SHINING IN THE SUN(BIRDS)
Against Fresno Pacific, several Sun Devils had career days, including newcomer Tristin Baxter, who recently joined the team after competing in the NCAA Swimming Championships for the Sun Devils. Baxter was one of three Sun Devils to record single-game highs in goals as she netted three while Morgan Leech scored two and Amanda Young, who played goalie last year for ASU as a rookie, scored three as well. Baxter, who also recorded her first collegiate assist and added two steals, joined Searra Silverberg and Young in the assists category as they posted three and two, respectively.
SPREADING IT AROUND
So far this year, four Sun Devils have scored 30+ goals while two others have totaled 20+ with only one other player posting double-digit goals. Mariam Salloum leads the way with her 35 goals while Sarah Harris is just behind her with 34. Shannon Haas (33) and Lynlee Smith (30) round out the four Sun Devils with 30+ scores while both Annabelle Carter (26) and Kelsey White (23) have over 20 now. When removing these six women, the rest of the team has scored 40 goals total this year.
A pair of Sun Devils that earned Honorable Mention All-America honors last season are back once again this year as seniors Sarah Harris and Lynlee Smith will look to lead the offensive charge. Smith was the team’s leading scorer in 2010 with 51 goals (seventh-most in a single season in ASU history) while Harris was an all-around standout, scoring 38 goals (third on the team) while leading the team in steals (30) and by winning 82-of-98 sprints.
AMONG THE BEST
Harris also was selected as an Honorable Mention All-MPSF selection and is one of two Sun Devils returning this season after earning that distinction last year. The other returnee is sophomore Shannon Haas, who was named to the Honorable Mention All-MPSF team as well as the MPSF All-Freshman team. Haas was a standout offensively as a freshman, netting 47 goals, which ranks second on the school’s freshman season scoring list and also ranks 10th on the all-time single-season scoring list in program history.