Water polo to focus on defense against No. 1 UCLA

Anna Kertes defends a pass in a game against San Diego State on March 3. After winning their past two games at home, the Sun Devils travel to California to take on five teams in four days next week. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

The ASU water polo team is excited about the progress of the season so far with a program-best record of 16-2 (2-0 MPSF) to show for it.

On Saturday, the No. 5 Sun Devils beat No. 4 California 10–7, a major feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 2009.

After two consecutive home wins, ASU is looking to extend its success on the road. Next week, the team will play a series of five games in only a few days. First up is No. 1 UCLA.

Coach Todd Clapper said the Bruins have a solid goalkeeper and play well on defense. This week in practice, the Sun Devils will work on their shooting and defense to prepare specifically for the top-ranked competitor.

“We’ve got to make sure that our defense is good, better than it was,” Clapper said. “It was good on Saturday, but it’s going to be better.”

Freshman Anna Kertes agreed defense would be the key to victory against any team the Sun Devils face. She said she’s working on being more assertive in the pool, and the team collectively is working on its conditioning.

Kertes isn’t worried about playing five games in a short time, though.

“I think we have really good practices and we practice really intensely,” she said.

The Sun Devils are making it a point to work on using their extra players in future games, trying to give each athlete more minutes of play and experience in the pool.

“The larger our bench can be, the more potent our defense and offense is going to be,” Clapper said. “Having fresh players in there that are equal to the starters (is key).”

It is evident the team is also gaining more trust in one another in and out of the pool. Kertes and senior Kelsey White expressed how crucial it is for a team to coordinate well and be able to depend on every player.

“I have to trust everyone else that they’re doing their job so that I can do my job, and same with Ianeta (Hutchinson), our goalkeeper,” White said. “It’s a huge thing, especially on our defense and then on offense, just knowing each other in the pool, how each other catches the ball and when everyone’s going to sprint.”

Kertes agreed.

“It’s really important to trust your teammates, trust in you (and) to trust in your coach,” she said.

Having confidence in the skill and positioning of teammates in the pool will benefit the Sun Devils when they battle the Bruins.

“UCLA will fight for four quarters,” White said. “They will keep on going no matter what, so it’s just about keeping our composure for all four quarters and not letting them slip by us.”

The Sun Devils will travel to California this weekend to play UCLA, Iona, Pomona-Pitzer, Princeton and Azusa Pacific.

 

Reach the reporter at fawade@asu.edu

 

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