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Sun Devils sweep ASU Invitational ahead of marquee matchup with UCLA

The ASU women's water polo team went 4-0 this past weekend and look formidable as they look forward to a rematch with No. 1 UCLA


ASU sophomore center Sophia Shorter-Robinson (9) defends the ball at game on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe.

The ASU women's water polo team continued their stellar start to the season, sweeping the competition at the ASU Invitational this past weekend. Outscoring their opponents by a combined 48 goals, the Sun Devils were dominant on both ends of the pool and were also able to showcase their bench in the blowouts. 

"Obviously, an amazing feeling of kudos to the girls and the team," head coach Petra Pardi said. 

ASU started off with back-to-back ranked wins, defeating No. 12 UC-Santa Barbara 12-6 on Friday and No. 19 San Jose State 9-5 early Saturday morning. In both wins, the Sun Devils got off to hot starts in the first period, scoring seven goals against the Gauchos and four goals against the Spartans. 

"It's something that we've talked to the girls about ad nauseam after our first two tournaments," Pardi said. "It's very good to see that they're turning up the energy and intensity from the start."

The wins over UCSB and SJSU propelled ASU’s record against ranked teams to an impressive 7-1, a stark difference from their 6-13 record against ranked teams last year. Part of this new and improved record has to do with 2024 being an Olympic year.  

"Some of the traditionally top programs, they've lost their Olympians due to Olympic centralization," Pardi said. "The entire off-season, our conversation was that the opportunity is going to be there this year. I think you are starting to see that belief paying off now when they go up against ranked opponents."

To close out the tournament, the Sun Devils put on colossal offensive showings against Marist and Ottawa University, winning 23-7 and 23-1, respectively, to move their record to 11-1. The matchup against Ottawa, in particular, highlighted the depth of this Sun Devil squad.  

"Our bench always brings some really good energy, especially with cheering, and today we got the chance to also contribute in the water," freshman attacker Alison Kokorowski said. 

Kokorowski, who poured in two goals, was one of 12 Sun Devils to score against Ottawa and represents the immense talent throughout this ASU roster.  

Despite the flashy numbers, the team still feels they have room for improvement. 

"We are looking to really solidify our communication, especially on defense, and then maintain our intensity throughout all four quarters," Kokorowski said. 

Senior attacker Luca Petovary, who was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation player of the week for the second-straight week, scored 20 goals throughout the tournament, breaking a school record and tying the MPSF record of nine against Marist. 

Petovary, who leads the MPSF with 52 goals this season, has a 22-goal lead on teammate Millie Quin, who is second with 30. 

Petovary's big weekend also took her to 3rd place on the all-time ASU scoring list with 182 goals, as she closes in on Addison McGrath’s record of 237. 

Following this successful home stand, ASU faces a tough test at No.1 UCLA this Friday. 

"The mentality is just do what we do, approach every game the same," Kokorowski said. "We're here to take them down, and we're gonna prepare and work hard so that we can play great this week."

This isn’t any ordinary matchup for the Sun Devils, it’s a chance to get even with the Bruins, who gave them their only loss of the season — a 13-8 defeat at the Triton Invitational at UC-San Diego.

"Absolutely, we want to get that game back," Pardi said. "We have five days to prepare, and we're going to be ready for anything that they could possibly throw at us."

A win against UCLA could potentially spur the seventh-ranked Sun Devils to the top of the collegiate rankings. But, it’s also a chance to prove to everyone that this team has arrived and is a serious national contender. 

ASU is off to its best start since 2015, and the team has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2021. With the way they are currently playing, it only looks like a matter of time before they return. 

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Alysa Horton and Shane Brennan

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