It is not often that teams get to avenge losses so early in the season, but the ASU water polo team will get a chance to do just that at the UC Irvine Invitational this weekend.
The No. 8 Sun Devils (2-4, 0-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will begin the tournament by playing No. 10 San Jose State, a team they have already beaten 12-9 this season. If ASU wins that game, they will more than likely have a rematch with No. 1 Stanford, followed by more possible rematches with Cal, whom ASU has already lost to twice, and Hawaii.
While the familiarity of opponents can be an advantage, ASU is not entirely thrilled with the tournament’s seeding.
“We’re a little bit disappointed that we’re not going to see different teams in this tournament,” ASU coach Todd Clapper said. “It is what it is and we look at it as a second chance.”
Although playing new opponents may have been preferred, the Sun Devils have been presented with an opportunity to improve upon the previous results.
“Every time that you play a team that has beaten you before, you get to know them better, you get smarter and hopefully you beat them,” Clapper said.
ASU junior Mariam Salloum also feels that playing a team for a second or third time can be an advantage.
“We should be learning from our mistakes every game,” Salloum said. “We should do a better job finishing our shots and getting goals. That will make it a lot easier to win those games.”
Despite having already beat San Jose State once this year, the Sun Devils are hoping to improve against the Spartans.
“We beat them last time, but we don’t necessarily think the whole game was a great game for us defensively,” Clapper said. “We’re going to try to play better against them.”
Being placed in the same pool as No. 1 Stanford will certainly make the tournament difficult, but ASU would have had a tough time no matter what pool they were placed in. The UC Irvine Invitational is playing host to a majority of the top teams in the country.
Nine of the top 10 teams will be playing the tournament and 15 of the 16 teams are ranked in the top 20.
All of the teams in the tournament are talented, but the Sun Devils are anxious to get back to competing after taking last week off.
“We improved the last week we had off,” Salloum said. “We’re excited to go.”
Victories will be hard to come by and will require great performances by all the Sun Devils, but ASU will especially need Salloum’s offensive presence.
She is coming off a five-goal game and currently leads the team with 13 goals. Salloum’s offensive success this season has been credited to her ability to relax and live in the moment.
“I’m just trying to be calm and relaxed before the games and not over think stuff,” Salloum said. “It has helped me because I’m not putting so much pressure on myself.”
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Spartans at Sun Devils
When: 11:15 a.m.
Where: Irving, Calif.
San Jose State update: The No. 10 Spartans are coming off an 11-6 defeat to No. 4 Cal on Feb. 19. The last time they faced the Sun Devils was at the Stanford Invitational, where ASU won 12-9.