After falling to California 8-7 in sudden death overtime and taking fourth place at the MPSF championships, the ASU water polo team received its first ever bid for the NCAA championship Monday.
ASU received an at-large bid and a No. 5 seed in the tournament after finishing a program-best fourth place at the MPSF tournament and concluding with an overall season record of 15-10.
“We’re thrilled to be selected for the first time,” head coach Todd Clapper said. “It’s really amazing for us and we’re going to do everything we can to do well.”
That No. 5 seed sets up a rematch against the No. 4 seed, Cal.
The Sun Devils narrowly fell to Cal, 8-7, in the third-place match at the MPSF tournament. The game went to sudden death overtime with Cal scoring first to take the win.
The first time ASU faced Cal this season, the Sun Devils came out on top, winning 6-5.
The last five times these teams have met, the outcome was decided by one goal. ASU won 3 of those 5 games.
Clapper said the team is excited for the challenges that come with facing Cal.
“Cal is going to be really exciting,” he said. “It’s going to be a really spectacular game for the fans and a really tough one for both teams.”
Clapper said the team will watch a lot of film in order to prepare them for Cal this time around.
He said he has a few ideas of things they need to work on but want to confirm the thoughts with the film first.
Clapper said heading into MPSFs, the team focused strictly on the USC match and was really excited to get that win.
However, the team didn’t match the intensity from the USC game the rest of the weekend until the fourth quarter of the Cal game, Clapper said.
“I like how we’re playing right now,” Clapper said. “It’s been a whirlwind since we’ve been back (from MPSFs) but we’re looking forward to what’s next.”
The NCAA released the official bracket for the tournament Monday night, which consists of 10 teams.
The top six teams have been automatically added to the bracket, while the other four teams will compete May 3 for the other two bracket spots.
No. 7 seed UC San Diego (26-10) will play No. 10 seed Pomona-Pitzer (23-13) and No. 8 seed Indiana (22-5) will play No. 9 seed Wagner (25-11) for the two available bracket spots.
The winner of the San Diego and Pomona-Pitzer game will face No. 2 seed UCLA (22-5) and the winner of the Indiana and Wagner game will head up against No. 1 seed Stanford (22-1).
If ASU defeats Cal, it will face the winner of the Stanford and Indiana/Wagner game in the second round of play.
The MPSF dominated the rest of the bracket, with USC (24-3) taking the No. 3 seed and UC Irvine (24-7) taking the No. 6 seed. Those two teams will face each other in the first round.
The NCAA tournament runs from May 9 to May 11. ASU plays its first game at 5:15 p.m. on May 9.
Reach the reporter at Megan.Kavy@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @meggiekavy