Alicia Brightwell can make history for ASU water polo

Redshirt senior attacker Alicia Brightwell leans on the edge pool deck at the Plummer Aquatics center before a practice on Feb. 5.  Led by Brightwell the Sun Devils are off to a 6-0 start. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

Redshirt senior attacker Alicia Brightwell leans on the edge pool deck at the Plummer Aquatics center before a practice on Feb. 5. Led by Brightwell, the Sun Devils are off to a 6-0 start. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

Transferring to a new college can be a stressful task, especially when it’s to a new country.

When it comes to athletes, it can be even more stressful, because it takes time to become familiar with the new program and gain chemistry among teammates.

For ASU redshirt senior attacker Alicia Brightwell, that moment came last season when she transferred to ASU from Australia to play water polo for the Sun Devils.

It was an interesting choice for the Australian, who was already well-accomplished in her home country.

“I wanted a new experience,” Brightwell said. “I heard that the ASU program was good, and a few players from Australia had played here before and had a good experience and played well and were taught new stuff.”

It didn’t take long for the senior to become comfortable in the pool. She recorded one of the most successful individual seasons in school history, earning her a spot on the AWPCA All-America Team.

Brightwell finished last season with 75 goals, good enough for second in school history. It was an accomplishment she didn’t see possible in her first season with the team.

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Redshirt senior attacker Alicia Brightwell holds a water polo ball before a practice on Feb. 5. Brightwell is lethal with the ball in her hands; she has 17 goals already this season. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

“I came over here not knowing what was ahead of me, how hard it would be,” Brightwell said. “I didn’t think going into it I would have success last year.

Her success helped lead the ASU squad to it’s most successful season in school history, wrapping up 2012 with a 25-6 record.

“She was able to come in right away and impact us,” coach Todd Clapper said. “She continues to grow and she continues to learn those nuances of the game.”

Now, in her final year of eligibility, Brightwell has a chance to build on top of last season’s historic finish and take the Sun Devils to heights they’ve never been before.

Already off to a 6-0 start, the No. 5 Sun Devils have a chance to make a run at their first national championship in program history.

Brightwell said getting to the championship level takes hard work in the pool.

“I think every training session, I’m always pushing myself and others to try and be better,” Brightwell said. “We’re always trying to hype the team up get them excited about the games, get them excited about training. We all enjoy playing; we enjoy training; we train to win and to play hard”

Brightwell has picked up right where she left off last season when it comes to finding the net. She has scored 17 goals to begin the season. All 17 goals came in the first four games, after being held scoreless in the fifth game and sitting out the sixth game.

On pace to top her scoring output from last season, Brightwell makes life for opposing teams tough because of her ability to get the ball in the net.

“She adds a lot because the other teams are kind of watching for a player like that,” Clapper said. “They have to game plan around her, because of what she can do offensively and defensively.”

With Brightwell in the water, ASU has been able to accomplish things that never were reached before she arrived in Tempe. The success of the team last year has the Sun Devils in a place to take a legitimate shot at the NCAA tournament.

“This is the year, I think,” Brightwell said. “We’ve got some young good athletes who are improving every time we get in the pool.”

With an All-American leading the team that is filled with talented players, this may be the season ASU brings precious hardware back to Tempe.

In her last season, Brightwell could make history and help begin a new era for ASU water polo.

“An NCAA championship would be nice,” Brightwell said.

 

Reach the reporter at talopez3@asu.edu