The ASU water polo team did exactly what it planned last weekend.
The Sun Devils beat the Cal Golden Bears and were elevated to No. 4 in the NCAA standings.
The No. 4 Sun Devils face No. 3 UCLA with the same goal in mind Saturday, gaining another spot in the rankings.
ASU faces a team that beat the Sun Devils 14-7 in the consolation third-place game last weekend in the UC Irvine tournament.
ASU coach Todd Clapper sees the loss as a key to beating them this time around.
“We look at everything that they do well, and we just have to make sure we’re ready for it, to counter it,” he said. “We’re ready to take away their strengths, which we didn’t do a very good job of on Sunday.”
Senior captain Shannon Haas is also looking forward to the rematch. She, too, plans on taking the loss as a learning opportunity.
“It’s definitely an advantage for us just because now we know what they’re going to do,” Haas said. “We’re practicing this whole week on trying to beat it.”
Redshirt freshman goalie E.B. Keeve started all four games in net for the Sun Devils last weekend but is recovering from an upper body injury sustained before the tournament. She is a game-time decision for Saturday.
If Keeve is unable to go, junior Ianeta Hutchinson will play. Hutchinson is nursing a hand injury, but will play if Keeve cannot.
This is the only true home meet for the Sun Devils. They also play in Tempe for a tournament in late March, but Saturday is the only dual meet at Mona Plummer Aquatic Center.
Saturday will also be the first MPSF conference game. ASU has played against other members of the MPSF this season, but those were in tournaments and were not true conference matchups.
Conference games are weighed heavier in the rankings. Despite the loss to the Bruins last weekend, a win on Saturday would presumably raise the Sun Devils to the No. 3 ranking nationally.
“We know what we need to do to succeed,” Haas said. “If we play our game we can win.”
Getting to No. 3 spot would be huge for the Sun Devils with the conference being so stacked with talent. ASU needs to either win the MPSF or finish with the best or second-best record outside of the conference winners to make the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid.
All top-five ranked teams are in the MPSF. ASU would most likely need to finish the season with the No. 3 ranking to make the tournament.
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