No. 3 ASU water polo continues to climb in the NCAA rankings.
Two weeks ago, the Sun Devils (12-3) were No. 5 in the nation, with eyes on No. 4 Cal.
One week ago they were No. 4 in the nation, with eyes on then-No. 3 UCLA.
Again, ASU won.
This weekend, ASU will make a California road trip with eyes on No. 1 USC, as well as Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Monterey Bay.
The focus of the weekend is the Trojans (13-0), just as the focus the last two weekends has been Cal and UCLA.
ASU has played USC once this season, with the Trojans giving the Sun Devils their first loss of the year, a 13-6 decision in the finals of the UCSD Triton Invitational tournament on Feb. 10.
UCLA also had beaten ASU earlier in the season before losing to the Sun Devils on Saturday. The Bruins are the only team that ASU has lost to, then played again. So far, playing a repeat opponent has worked in favor of the Sun Devils.
ASU coach Todd Clapper made sure to make the necessary adjustments against the Bruins and planned it in a similar way for the Trojans.
“When we played them in San Diego, they pressed us pretty strong,” Clapper said. “That’s the No. 1 focus on offense is to make sure we can go in there and consistently break their press.”
ASU has not played CSU Bakersfield or CSU Monterey Bay this season. Neither are ranked or even have .500 records.
CSU Bakersfield (4-14) is an MPSF newcomer this year and has not started off well. The Roadrunners come into the weekend having lost six straight.
CSU Monterey Bay (4-6) is coming off a victory over CSU San Bernardino. The Otters play a unique brand of water polo. Clapper said they have a tactic in which they bring one of their players in as a second goalkeeper.
The two Cal State teams play ASU on Sunday. Until then, the Sun Devils have their eyes on the top-seeded USC.
Clapper knows what it will take to win.
“It’s going to take discipline,” he said. “If we work hard at the beginning of every play, particularly on offense, throughout the four quarters, we’re going to work a lot less than if we try to go in and try to save our energy early on.”
Defensively, ASU will need to stop USC sophomore Monica Vavic. She has scored 41 goals in only 13 games, good for 3.15 goals per game, tops in the MPSF. The next highest USC scorer is senior Dominique Sardo, scoring 1.31 goals per game. If the Sun Devils can shut down Vavic, they could have success.
“It’s definitely possible for us to knock them off,” Clapper said. “We’re talented enough and we’re good enough, we’re in shape enough and we’ve got all the pieces we need to take away a victory.”
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