The ASU water polo team is set to face some tougher competition Feb. 22 to 23 at the UCI Tournament in Irvine, Calif.
Coach Todd Clapper said the competition at the tournament is stronger and tougher than the past two tournaments.
“This Irvine tournament is in a lot of ways stronger than the NCAA tournament,” he said.
There will be 16 teams at the tournament, and Clapper said 13 or 14 of the teams are ranked in the top 16 in the national rankings.
Teams are based on their national rankings so the tournament is typically challenging.
“It’s a good chance to see the best teams in action,” Clapper said.
Clapper said he’s pleased with the way the team is progressing thus far. Some days the team makes more progress than others, but Clapper said he sees a lot of promise and believes the team will do well this weekend.
He said the team is completely focused on the tournament but is keeping their home opener March 1 against USC in the back in of their minds.
“(USC is) a tough team to play in a tournament setting for us, “Clapper said. “When we have some time to prepare and have them at home, it’s gonna be a different game.”
Junior attacker Petra Pardi said she would love to upset USC on March 1, and the team is preparing for that a lot.
She said that the preseason tournaments are for preparation, but she isn’t completely satisfied with the performances so far.
“This team has a lot of potential,” Pardi said. “So far, we have been underachieving.“
She also said she does believe the team has improved a lot since the beginning of the season and they are headed in the right direction.
“We are doing what we’re supposed to, and we’re going to get there where we are expecting,” Pardi said.
According to Pardi, two teams from the Sun Devils’ conference can now qualify for the NCAA Tournament, which will take place in the beginning of May.
Pardi said she would love for the Sun Devils to be one of those teams and believes it is possible.
“That’s our biggest goal,” Pardi said.
The Sun Devils have never gone to the NCAA Tournament in the water polo program’s history.
The Sun Devils are currently 6-3 throughout the first two tournaments and are looking to improve on their record.
USC, Bakersfield, LMU, CSU Northridge, UC Irvine, UC Davis, California, UCSB, UCLA, San Diego St., Hawaii, UC San Diego, San Jose St., Stanford and Pacific are the teams that will be at the tournament this weekend and are all potential opponents for the Sun Devils.
Times are still to be announced for the start of the tournament but action begins Saturday, Feb. 22, and continues onto Sunday, Feb. 23.
Reach the reporter at Megan.Kavy@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @meggiekavy