TEMPE, AZ, February 24. FOLLOWING a two-week hiatus from competition, the No. 18 Arizona State University water polo team (1-3, 0-0 MPSF) makes its return to the pool this weekend as the Sun Devils head to Santa Barbara, Calif., for the Daktronics Gaucho Invitational.
The 23-team event will be conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Campus and Recreation Center Pools on the campus of UC Santa Barbara, said Sun Devil sources.
ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT
Twenty-three teams (following CS Bakersfield's withdraw from the event) will converge on Santa Barbara, Calif., for the event this weekend, including 17 of the Top 20 teams in the latest national rankings. Of those 17 teams, the Top 12-ranked teams will be on hand to compete. All 13 members of the MPSF have entered the event this year with 12 of them holding a ranking in the Top 18. Pacific is the lone team from the conference that is not ranked this week (released Feb. 23).
ON THE SLATE: TWO ON FRIDAY
Based upon the group breakdowns (see below), the Sun Devils will face fellow group members No. 19 Princeton (11:50 a.m.) and No. 1 UCLA (4:10 p.m.) Friday to open play. Their opponents from there will be determined base upon the results of the other games played.
The Daktronics Gaucho Invitational field has been broken down into eight groups of three (except for Group D with the departure of CS Bakersfield from the event). Group A (ASU, UCLA, Princeton) is paired up with Group H (No. 7 California, No. 9 Hawaii and No. 14 CS Northridge, all MPSF members). Depending upon their finish in the first two games, ASU will play at either 10:20 a.m. (2-0 on Friday), 11:30 a.m. (1-1 Friday) or 1:50 p.m. (0-2 Friday).
IN THE SERIES: #1 UCLA
The Sun Devils and Bruins have met once before with UCLA scoring a 13-5 decision over ASU in an April 4 contest in Los Angeles last year. The Bruins were ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time with ASU holding onto the No.17 ranking.
IN THE SERIES: #19 PRINCETON
ASU trails Princeton, 1-0, in the all-time series following an 11-4 Tiger victory at the 2003 Princeton Invitational.
TOUGH TASK: FACING NUMBER ONE
For the second time in as many years, the Sun Devils find themselves facing the No. 1 team in the nation. Last year, ASU played host to eventual undefeated NCAA champion USC (April 10) and suffered a 13-4 defeat to the Trojans in Tempe.
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: UCSB INVITE
The 2005 event marks the first time the Sun Devils have competed in this event. Even so, ASU has played at UC Santa Barbara. The Sun Devils played the Gauchos in an MPSF contest last season with ASU recording a 7-4 upset over UCSB, marking the highest-ranked foe the Sun Devils have defeated in their short history as a varsity program.
SO CLOSE TO A REPEAT
In the opening game of the year, No. 16 ASU nearly upset No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, again. In a back and forth game, the score was tied at six and went into overtime before the Gauchos tallied one goal in each extra session of play while the Sun Devils scored in only the first extra period, falling to UCSB, 8-7.
For the fifth time this season, including the preseason rankings, the Sun Devils find themselves among the Top 20 teams in the nation, holding down the No. 18 position for the second week in a row. The first two polls had ASU at No. 16 before a 1-3 start pushed the Sun Devils back to No. 17 three releases ago.
STATISTICS AROUND THE NATION
With the on-going efforts of the Long Beach State sports information department, the 2005 season will mark the first season that national statistics will be kept and distributed around the USA. The statistics, which include all women's programs regardless of division, are released each Wednesday. Here is how the Sun Devils fare this week:
Individually, Jennifer Sanderson is ranked 25th in overall saves after recording 29 in the first weekend of the season. As a team, the Sun Devil offense is ranked 26th with 26 goals scored while the defense is 11th overall having allowed just 11 goals so far in 2005.
Three players were selected as team captains for the Sun Devils' 2005 season. That trio includes senior Jennifer Sanderson and juniors Heather Rempfer and Tessa Wyborny.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Through four games so far this season, the Sun Devils have four different players tied for the team lead in scoring as Ashley Bower, Katie Hedley, Raelyn Ritchie and Kimberlee Stevens have each found the back of the net on four occasions each.
RECAP: OPENING WEEKEND
The 2005 season opened for the Sun Devils Feb. 5-6 at the UC San Diego Arena Invitational in La Jolla, Calif., with ASU returning home with a 1-3 record. In the opener, No. 10 UC Santa Barbara escaped ASU's upset bid with an 8-7 overtime victory. But the Sun Devils rebounded later that day as they defeated Cal Baptist, 9-7.
On the second day of play, the Sun Devils dropped another one-goal heartbreaker, this time falling to No. 15 Hartwick, 5-4. In the final game of the weekend, No. 12 Michigan jumped out to a 3-0 lead before winning the contest, 6-3.
DAVIS GARNERS HONORS
Katie Davis capped her two-year career with the Sun Devils in 2004 as the most decorated player in the short history of the program. Following a stellar season in which she led the team with 49 goals and ranked ninth in the MPSF at 1.58 goals per contest, Davis became the first Sun Devil to earn All-MPSF honors as an honorable mention selection. Davis also attained the program's first All-America honor (honorable mention) as she recorded 65 points (49G-16A) and opened the season on a 14-game scoring streak.
AND THE AWARD GOES TO …
Eight different Sun Devils earned academic accolades a year ago, including six student-athletes earning spots on the Academic All-MPSF team in Arizona State's first season in the league. Those players included Elaine Bentley, Lauren Jacobson, Adriane Mota, Holly Newman, Heather Rempfer and Tessa Wyborny.
Six student-athletes also earned Academic All-America status, led by a perfect 4.0 GPA from Ashley Bower, who attained 'outstanding' status. Four of those six student-athletes earned 'superior' honors, including Jacobson, Rempfer, Jennifer Sanderson and Wyborny, while Adriane Mota earned 'excellent' status
Following the season, seven team honors were bestowed upon members of the team for their efforts during the season. Heather Rempfer was selected by her teammates as the recipient of Sun Award and T.E.A.M. Award while Katie Davis took home the Sparky Award. Katie Hedley was chosen as the Iron Woman Award winner while Raelyn Ritchie and Jennifer Sanderson shared the Devil Award.
New to the award presentations last season were two honors bestowed by the Sports Performance staff. The strength and conditioning coaches selected Kimberlee Stevens as the Gold Bar Award winner while Elaine Bentley was honored with the Most Improved Award.