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Luca Petovary stamps her name into the ASU water polo record books

The senior attacker concludes her record-breaking season by becoming the all-time goal leader in Sun Devil water polo history


ASU senior attacker Luca Petovary (4) shoots toward the goal against Marist at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024 in Tempe. ASU won 23-7.

In a season with plenty of positive takeaways, Luca Petovary’s season has to be at the top of the list for the ASU women's water polo team. On Saturday, the senior attacker culminated her tremendous year by becoming the all-time Sun Devil leader in career goals at 237, breaking Addison McGrath's 15-year record.

"Honestly, it's amazing," Petovary said. "I can't take all the credit for myself … I get amazing support from my teammates, but I'm really happy that (the) season so far went the way I wanted it to."

Petovary was successful during her first three years at ASU, but her production this year has risen to a completely new level. Last year, She scored 53 goals on 35.8% shooting and finished the year with 78 points. Over this year, she has blown those numbers out of the water and manufactured one of the greatest single seasons in Sun Devil water polo history.

Petovary currently leads the entire Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in goals with 110 and points with 136, both school records. No other player in the conference is within 40 points of her in either statistic. Despite being the focal point of every opposition's defense, this season her shooting percentage has increased to 64.3%.

Petovary's season has turned heads around the country. A few weeks ago, she was placed on the Peter J. Cutino Award Watch List, which "is given annually to the most outstanding NCAA Division I water polo players as voted on by coaches from across the country."

"I wanted to give my all and leave everything to the fullest, especially because this is my last season, and I didn't want to have any regrets," Petovary said. "I'm very happy I can leave a mark in this program."

Part of the difference between the past two seasons is Petovary's role. Last year, graduate defender Lara Kiss, the most experienced player on the team, only played eight games due to a shoulder injury. The nature of the roster placed a unique responsibility on Petovary’s shoulders: leading the defense. 

"Luca was forced to … quarterback everything offensively and defensively … and so last year she was put into a very tough position having to do absolutely everything,” head coach Petra Pardi said. “But I think it also forced her to grow so much, and … it put Luca in the position to get outside of her comfort zone and become a very well-rounded player."

Kiss’ return was beneficial to the team and Petovary. With the defensive stalwart back, Petovary returned to doing what she did best: scoring goals. Over the summer, Petovary and Kiss constantly practiced together to regain their chemistry.

"I practice a lot with Lara because she's my rock in the water, and … we practice finding each other in the water again," Petovary said. "I was also practicing different kinds of shooting drills: around the block, sidearm, from above."

Despite the flashy numbers, Petovary plays the game selflessly. When the defense dedicates itself to stopping her, she drives to create shots for her teammates. Opposing teams have to defend her accordingly, which often constitutes multiple players trying to slow her down.

"She's the best driver in the NCAA, and she goes on those drives knowing that she's going to earn a double team, and she could open up her teammate’s (like) Millie (Quin) for a finish," Pardi said. "A lot of the high volume shooting that Millie is getting is because Luca is creating those opportunities."

Beyond the numbers, Petovary’s passion for the pool shines through everything. She views being subbed out as "punishment" and requires no rest, regardless of injury or fatigue. Petovary's play and the records she broke this year matter, but the ultimate prize is at the upcoming MPSF tournament and potentially the NCAA tournament following that. 

"I grew up not sitting on the bench," Petovary said. "In my mind, I need to be in the water because I love this game. Inward, it drives me to show that I need to be here. I want to be here."

The No. 10 Sun Devils face a gauntlet in the MPSF tournament. Four of the top five teams in the country (UCLA, USC, Stanford, and Cal) are in ASU's conference. Despite this, Petovary has the utmost confidence in the Sun Devils, and with their season, it would be lazy to count them out.

"I don't think anybody after last season expected us to play this way, and every single time we have a really close game with these big teams, there are little mistakes that make the difference," Petovary said. "I'm really hopeful that with experience, by the time we get to MPSF, these are the little mistakes we can fix."

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

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