TEMPE, Ariz. April 23. WITH loud, gold-clad fans in the stands and playing in its final home game of the 2006 season, the No. 11 Arizona State University water polo team used a four-goal explosion in the third quarter to upset No. 8 San Diego State, 5-4, Saturday at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center. The league contest served as the annual Gold Game for the Sun Devils as they improved to 13-11 overall on the season and 5-7 in the MPSF while dropping the Aztecs to 20-10 overall and 5-7 in the conference.
Following the introductions of the teams and the eight Sun Devil seniors playing in the final home game of their career, it was only fitting that the first goal of the game be scored by senior Tessa Wyborny. After both teams battled back and forth and recorded several defensive steals, Wyborny collected a pass on the wing and fired a shot to the upper corner for the power play goal.
The Aztecs responded in the second as they secured the man advantage and saw Elana Cervantes tie the game with 4:51 showing on the clock. Following no more scoring and the halftime break, both teams returned to action with the visitors taking the lead, 2-1, on Savanah Kelley’s power play goal at 3:58 in the third. That is when the Sun Devils turned to their scoring leader, Rowie Webster.
With 2:40 remaining in the third, the Sun Devils went on the advantage. Webster collected a pass and fired a skip shot into the net to tie the game at two. Thirty seconds later, the Aztecs’ Ashley McCullum was whistled for a penalty shot that Webster took and power home to give the home side the lead. With 1:15 remaining in the third, the Sun Devils struck again on the power play as Traci Aparicio scored on the advantage for the 4-2 lead.
Webster again scored on a 4-meter penalty shot with 29 seconds remaining in the third to push the advantage to 5-2, but the Aztecs answered with a goal from Ashling Taylor with 14 seconds remaining to cut the score to 5-3. In the final quarter of play, Kelley scored again for the visitors with 2:26 remaining to pull SDSU to within one goal, but the Sun Devil defense, powered by a seven-save performance from goalie Caylinn Wallace preserved the victory.
The victory was the third of the season for the Sun Devils against a Top 8 foe. It also was the final home contest for seniors Holly Newman, Kim Doll, Jill Szuszkiewicz, Heather Rempfer, Elaine Bentley, Kimberlee Stevens, Wyborny and Adriane Mota.
The Sun Devils now head to the MPSF Championships set for next weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in Irvine, Calif. Thanks to the Sun Devils’ victory today and other teams falling on the final day of the regular season, ASU finished tied for seventh in the overall standings and will be the No. 7 seed in the tournament and open play Thursday again No. 10 seed Long Beach State.