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ASU women's water polo looks to get back to their winning ways this season

With improved bench depth and experience, the Sun Devils are primed to jump toward the top of the standings in an effort to reach the NCAA playoffs


ASU women's water polo players Bente Rogge (middle) and Chelsea Karimazondo (right) look to block a USC shot on Saturday, May 15, 2021 at the Spieker Aquatic Center in Los Angeles. ASU lost 10-4.

ASU women's water polo is off to a strong start and leaving the team optimistic about the future of their season. 

The team kicked off the season last Saturday and finished the weekend 4-0. These wins included a record-breaking 26-2 victory over Cal Lutheran and ranked wins over No. 18 Loyola Marymount and No. 20 Wagner. 

Led by the duo of attackers Luca Petovary, Millie Quin, and center Sophie Shorter-Robinson, the team entered the season ranked No.14 in the preseason polls and is coming off an 11-13 record.

Head coach Petra Pardi said a highly revamped roster and a year of experience under her belt has made it easier for the team to reach its potential. 

"(It's) great to have a full roster and have lots of sub-options going into this season," Pardi said. "It will make a massive difference for us every single season, how deep you can be."

The Sun Devils have added 10 new players to their roster, including six freshmen. With a majority of the new players having international experience, Pardi said she can seamlessly move players in and out of the rotation. 

"Last season was definitely challenging … but I think this season we've got definitely more depth on the bench and we've worked really hard during the offseason to come together and bond out of the pool as well," sophomore Shorter-Robinson said. 

For the past couple of weeks, ASU has focused on ramping up its conditioning in preparation for the season. In addition to in-pool work, the team has frequent weightlifting sessions. 

"Up until like two weeks ago, we were conditioning a whole lot," Pardi said. "They stuck through it and they really bought into it."

Tactically, the Sun Devils are an offensive-minded team. Last year, they racked up 236 goals. Pardi has implemented a motion-style offense in which the center is in motion, and the attackers drive around her to create scoring opportunities. 

"(Driving is) my bread and butter," Petovary said. "We are a team that is capable of doing it, and we're not just relying on a stationary play … because you can create a lot of situations out of six-on-fives."

Petovary was the second-highest scorer on the team with 53 goals last year. However, she may have to shoulder a higher burden this year as last year's leading scorer, Juliette Dhalluin, said she is taking a year off to prepare for the 2024 Olympics with the French national team. 

"Since the day she left, I have been preparing for this moment. But I already feel that I can trust anyone in the water and if I'm not gonna be there to finish it, I know the next person will," Petovary said. 

Despite the Sun Devils' prowess offensively, it's yet to be seen if they can match that intensity on the defensive end. Last year, the team gave up a total of 258 goals and has now lost senior goalkeeper Itzahiana Baca. 

"I am a big believer that defense wins championships and (defensive communication) is our number one priority," Pardi said. 

During practices, the Devils work on getting back in transition, positioning on defense, and communicating so that each player knows what they are supposed to do. 

"Connecting on defense is definitely more important because it can move into offense," Shorter-Robinson said. 

Although the team is young, they already have a strong sense of chemistry, in and out of the pool.

"I really liked how many internationals we have because we play very diverse water polo," Petovary said. "We have a really good bond in the water … and just have everyone in the water on the same page."

The early takeaways from the beginning of the season have been very positive, but the Sun Devils are looking for even more this season. 

"We're playing for an NCAA appearance this season," Pardi said. "And just getting the best possible record that you can have in (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) conference."

With this improved roster and a team driven to reach their goal, the Sun Devils have a strong chance to compete at the top of the standings. The squad heads to San Diego for their first game at the Triton Invitational on Feb. 2. 

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Alysa Horton and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the reporter at or @PrathamValluri

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