Water polo searching for first conference win in two years

The ASU water polo team will head to California this weekend to accomplish something they have not done in two years — win a conference game.

The No. 8 Sun Devils (1-3) have not won a regular season conference game since April 19, 2008, and are hoping to reverse that trend when they open up Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play against the No. 4 California Golden Bears (9-2) on Saturday.

ASU and Cal have already played once this season, during the Stanford Invitational, when the Golden Bears defeated the Sun Devils 12-8, but ASU coach Todd Clapper feels his team gained valuable experience and knowledge in the game.

“I think we’re more prepared [now] for the personnel that they have,” Clapper said.

While ASU is preparing for and focusing on Cal, Clapper acknowledged that the game will come down to ASU’s execution.

“It’s always going to be about what we’re doing,” Clapper said. “We’re preparing for Cal and we’re also making sure that the stuff we’re doing, we [are improving upon].”

The Sun Devils will need to play good defense and shut down Cal sophomore Breda Vosters if they want to be successful Saturday. Vosters scored a career-high five goals against ASU last weekend.

Defense will also be important for the Sun Devils because offense may be hard to come by, as junior All-American goalie Stephanie Peckham leads the Golden Bears.

Cal and ASU played evenly for the majority of the game the last time they met, but during the second quarter the Sun Devils lost focus and Cal broke open the game.

Clapper said he hopes his team will be able to concentrate for all four quarters this weekend.

“I could yell until the cows come home, but at some point in time they need to take it on and do it,” Clapper said. “But this group has always [answered challenges] so I feel that within this week we will be playing a lot better defense.”

On Sunday, ASU will travel to Monterey for a game against Cal State Monterrey Bay.

The Otters (4-5) play strong defense, but Clapper thinks his team has a speed advantage, which can lead to some important goals.

“They did a pretty good job against us of playing good defense [last year],” Clapper said. “I’m confident in the weapons we have against them. I think we are going to be faster than them, so if we can get some easy goals I think we can break that game open a little bit.”

The game against CS Monterey Bay is not a MPSF conference game, but it will be valuable for a team that struggles to pick up conference victories.

Reach the reporter at william.boor@asu.edu