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Water polo begins critical stretch

Junior defender Kelly Phelps throws to the net during a game against UCI last weekend at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center.

Coming off an impressive performance at the ASU Invitational, the No. 8 ASU water polo team heads to Berkeley this weekend to take on No. 5 Cal in what is the last stretch of a turbulent season.

The Sun Devils hosted San Jose State, Santa Clara, Cal Lutheran and UC Irvine last weekend and took three of the four games, losing only to conference rival SJSU.

Senior Addison McGrath suffered a concussion the Tuesday before the tournament, which caused her to miss three of the four games.

McGrath missed the final game of the tournament, which would have been the last home match of her impressive four-year career.

However, McGrath is expected to play this weekend as the Sun Devils cling to the slim postseason hopes they have left.

Sophomore Lynlee Smith was recognized this week for her performance in last week’s tournament by being named MPSF Co-Player of the Week along with San Jose State senior Juliet Moss.

Smith scored a total of 22 goals in last weekend’s four-game tournament, including a crucial game-winning goal against UC Irvine.

“She played her game,” said Sun Devil coach Todd Clapper. “She wasn’t afraid to shoot even if she missed. She played well.”

Prior to last weekend’s tournament, Clapper said the team would more than likely need to win the remainder of their games in order to reach the postseason, a goal that was dashed on day one, as the Sun Devils lost to SJSU.

Despite the loss, Clapper said he was looking forward to two more conference games that could potentially save the team’s hopes of a postseason.

“It’s not going to easy; we need big games against Cal, and we need to beat San Diego State,” he said. “If we can do that and end up playing Hawaii in the MPSF Championship, there’s a shot.”

Clapper said that postseason or not, the important thing is that the team is playing well.

Cal is coming off of a 6-5 loss to No. 4 Hawaii. Prior to that defeat, the Golden Bears won 14 of their last 16 matches, including victories over SJSU and No. 7 San Diego State.

After Cal, the Sun Devils will play their last regular-season match on April 11 against SDSU.

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