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Women's water polo reaches the deep end of the season

Women's water polo only has two more regular season games, giving them time to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses

ASU attacker Tina Doherty (12) attempts a shot on goal at Mona Plumber Aquatic Center on Saturday, March 11, 2023 in Tempe.

Women's water polo has taken a deep dive into this year's campaign, with only two more games left in the regular season. 

The team is 8-11 after losing to No. 3 UCLA on Saturday in Tempe. The goaltending had a strong start in the matchup, with freshman Alexa Knutson in the net. She had 10 saves against the Bruins, but they continued to be persistent in scoring, and the outcome was a 10-17 loss.   

The Sun Devils held their own, though. Overall, UCLA had 34 shots on goal, and ASU followed close behind with 29 attempts. ASU also had seven steals, more than the five UCLA had throughout the game. The Sun Devils dominated possession in the first half, winning the ball in both sprints at the start of the first two quarters.  

ASU started with an early 2-0 lead, but the Bruins were able to come back and continue peppering Knutson with goals. 

This is ASU's third conference loss all season. The team, currently ranked No. 19, has yet to win a conference matchup. USC dominated them early in the season with a 4-16 win over the Sun Devils. ASU kept a tighter game against Cal in an 11-17 loss before falling to No. 1 Stanford 6-19. 

They've struggled to win on the road with an 0-3 away record. Their latest road loss was against Indiana on their first trip to Bloomington in program history. ASU almost pulled off a comeback but was still short by four goals when the game ended. 

Freshman Juliette Dhalluin continues to be a star player for the Sun Devils. She had six goals against UCLA, which ties her career high in individual meets. Dhalluin has 59 goals this season, which places her third in program history for single-season goals scored by freshmen.

"Juliette's performance was incredible today. We were in a situation where we needed her to guard, and she did a phenomenal job," head coach Petra Pardi said on Saturday.   

Dhalluin will be absent next season to compete at the Olympic level, which will be a tough spot for the team to replace. She'll reenter the Sun Devil atmosphere after competing and garnering more experience. 

READ MORE: Women's water polo newcomer Juliette Dhalluin to train for Summer 2024 Olympics 

"She'll bring a lot of experience, and I hope that, as now we start to kind of see her open up and start talking more, I hope that continues to be the case," Pardi said.   

This season marks the first as Pardi as the head coach. She previously played for the Sun Devils and stayed in the program as an assistant coach. Pardi has lots of time and experience with the team which she has used to coach the players. 

Junior attacker Luca Petovary is another strength for the team. Before Saturday's matchup, she held a streak of scoring in 11 consecutive games.  

As an international athlete from Hungary, Petrovary has also guided the new international students and helped them acclimate, which is essential to being comfortable on the team. 

"International players help me a lot because they were in my place during their freshman year," Dhalluin said.

Petrovary said there are many differences when it comes to playing water polo in other countries, which makes it tough for international students to adjust while playing for ASU. 

"Coming here and basically practicing the summer and first semester here, and then we only have four or five months of actual games," Petovary said. "It's really, really different, and I feel it is really tough mentally."  

The Sun Devils will take on USC on the road on Saturday and will then return to the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on April 22 for one more home meet against San Jose State.  

Edited by Walker Smith, Jasmine Kabiri and Grace Copperthite.

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