ASU women's water polo senior attacker looks back at ASU career

Stephanie Contreras said she will miss her teammates more than anything

For senior Stephanie Contreras, the 2017 season has undoubtedly been the best of her career. The veteran attacker has come a long way from her freshman year, during which she scored a mere two goals.

Now, as one of the key players on the No. 4 Sun Devil water polo team, labeled a “gamer” by many,Contreras reminisces on her career as a Sun Devil.

“When I came in as a freshman, I weighed 40 pounds less,” Contreras said. “It was kind of a culture shock coming to the team because everyone who was here was the best player on their own team.”

Contreras said that a large amount of skill and talent on the roster helped push her in the earlier years.

“You have to compete the entire time,” Contreras said. “You have to be mentally strong because sometimes you’re constantly being put down weeks on end.”

Contreras’s first two seasons as a Sun Devil were average, scoring a combined six goals and ten assists. It wasn’t until her junior year that she became a defensive presence with 16 steals on the 2016 season.

“Coming into my senior year, it was a complete 180 flip,” Contreras said

Contreras, in her final year as a Sun Devil, netted 21 goals, a 10 goal jump from the previous season. One of her best outings was against Santa Clara University where she scored a season high four goals.

Most recently, Contreras helped lead the Sun Devils to an 11-3 victory over No. 15 San Jose State on April 15. Contreras contributed two goals in the match, one being a third period buzzer beater.

Contreras isn’t the only person on the roster that has noticed her improvements. Former high school rival turned teammate Mia Rycraw has as well.

“I’ve been playing with Steph since high school and she was the best player on her team,” the junior goalie said. “Whenever we would play them, everyone would be super intimidated.”

Rycraw said her former high school coach would have to calm his players down whenever they would face the Los Altos High School star.

Now, Rycraw said she can’t believe how fast the past four years have gone by.

“She’s had a really large impact on the team,” Rycraw said. “It’s going to be tough losing her because she’s such a great player.

Contreras said she knows it will be difficult to leave ASU because of how close she is to her teammates. Two years ago, Contreras said that when it came to the end of the season, the players weren’t as emotional as they are now.

Teammate and fellow senior Claudia Abad noted during Senior Day just how emotional the last few weeks had been for the team. Because the majority of the roster is either from Europe or another state, when they say goodbye for the final time, they aren’t sure when they’ll see each other again.

“Last year it was ok because I knew I was coming back, but this year I’m not coming back,” Contreras said. “I’m going to really miss them as a team.”

As Rycraw said, Contreras will be missed greatly. One of the characteristics that head coach Todd Clapper said made the senior attacker so special was her intensity and ability to stay calm under pressure.

“We saw that against Princeton when she scored two goals,” Clapper said. “Some people may have been nervous about the Olympic goalie Princeton had, but she wasn’t.”

That’s because Contreras isn’t worried about what is going to happen next, she plays in the moment and that’s something that Clapper said Contreras has learned over the last couple years.

“She doesn’t let the nerves get to her,” Clapper said. “She's confident in what she can do.”

That confidence translates to the team and has undoubtedly had an effect on its success this season.

While her college career will finish in the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that Contreras has made a huge impact on the women’s water polo team, but the opportunity to play at ASU with a roster full of talent has impacted her as well.

“Being a Sun Devil is something I never dreamed I’d be able to do,” Contreras said.

Contreras and the Sun Devils will face off against Cal in the MPSF Championships in two weeks. The tournament will go from April 28 to April 30.

Reach the reporter at or follow @KellyB1459 on Twitter.

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