Jan. 9, 2013
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After earning a top-20 ranking in the opening weeks of the season a year ago, the Colorado State women’s water polo team was hampered by injuries and one of the most difficult schedules in the nation.
Now, a year later, the schedule remains just as tough, but the Rams have returning talent, another year of experience and optimism that the team has what it takes to reach the next step in developing the program.
Sure, the team lost one of the most prolific players in program history—defender Kallie Berry, who ranks in the top five in CSU history in career goals, assists, steals, blocks, ejections drawn and total points—but associate head coach Mike Moody is looking at who will be back in the pool instead of who graduated.
“We have some big holes to fill, but I really feel like our program is developing the younger players, and our seniors and returners are stepping up and training hard,” he said.
Leading the charge are seniors Shelby Schaefer and Caroline Young.
Schaefer ranked among the top three on the team in goals (38; third), assists (38; second), steals (32; third) and ejections drawn (42; first) in 2012. Young established new single-season records for blocks (23) and assists (45), and scored 57 goals, fifth-best in school history. She was an All-WWPA honorable mention.
“Shelby is our team captain—voted on by the girls—and she’s done a great job this fall,” Moody said. “I expect her to not skip a beat from where she was at last year. Same thing with Caroline. The two of them on opposite sides of the pool creates a great tandem. I like what I see from the seniors; they’re doing a good job leading.”
Also returning is Kelcy Barott, named to the 2012 WWPA All-Freshman team, and teammates Stephanie Weed (36 steals a year ago), Lauren Porteus (2011 WWPA All-Freshman team selection) and seven other returners, plus seven freshmen and a transfer.
Additionally, the Rams have both of their goalies back in net. Senior Melissa Fisher and junior Michelle Slagle split time in goal last season, with both making impacts.
Fisher, now a senior, ranks second in CSU history for career saves and holds three of the top seven single-season saves totals. Slagle, who transferred to CSU from LMU and started 15 games a year ago, tied CSU’s single-game saves record with 16 vs. Michigan (Jan. 21, 2012).
“They battled all last year, and have been battling each other throughout the offseason,” Moody said. “I expect to see both of them playing significant roles again this season.”
The talent is there, but again, a very demanding schedule will play a factor in the team’s success. Last year’s strength of schedule ranked 24th nationally. This year’s could top that, as at least 12 of CSU’s 2013 opponents were ranked in the top 20 of last year’s final Collegiate Water Polo Association poll (one tournament field is still uncertain).
After an exhibition contest against Cal State Northridge on Monday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the Rams begin the season with the Michigan Kick-Off, one of the nation’s premier tournaments. There the Rams will face Michigan, Indiana and San Jose State—three teams who were ranked in the top 15 last year. Other tournaments include the Brown Invite (Providence, R.I.), Aggie Shootout (Davis, Calif.), Arizona State Tournament (Tempe, Ariz.) and The Bronco (Santa Clara, Calif.), in addition to several single matches against California teams.
During a three-day stretch at the Arizona State Tournament, the Rams will face Michigan (No. 12 in last year’s final poll), Arizona State (No. 5) and Stanford—the defending national champions which still has three 2012 Olympians on its roster.
In order to beat some of these teams, Moody says his team needs to improve on defense.
“We need to do a better job defensively than last year,” he said. “That’s what we’ve focused on this fall; not necessarily being more physical, but more aggressive.”
CSU will also play three exhibition games inside the state of Colorado, including two (Feb. 23 and April 13) at its home facility, the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, located in Thornton. The VMAC, a state-of-the-art facility, allows CSU to play in a regulation-size pool, and became home to the Rams in 2012.
Without a doubt, the Rams play the best in order to prepare them to become the best, and they’ll look to take that next step in 2013.
“CSU needs to be a powerhouse,” Moody said. “Water polo takes that to heart. We don’t back down. We work as hard as anybody in the country, so we welcome the challenge of facing the best teams and trying to beat and become them.”
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04/28/2013Despite a 12-7 loss to Santa Clara on Sunday, CSU finished fourth at the WWPA Championships, tying the program's best mark. It was a bittersweet day, as it was the program's final game. Read More [+]04/27/2013The CSU water polo team played an exceptional first half against top-seeded UC San Deigo, but a second-half scoring drought gave the Tritons a 14-6 win Saturday in the semifinals. Read More [+]04/26/2013The CSU water polo team picked up a big win on Friday, defeating Sonoma State in the quarterfinals of the WWPA Championships, 9-8. The win guarantees CSU a top-four finish. Read More [+]04/25/2013The CSU water polo team enters this weekend's WWPA Championships in Santa Clara, Calif., as the No. 4 seed, tying its best-ever seed. The Rams will face Sonoma State on Friday in the quarterfinals. Read More [+]04/22/2013The CSU water polo team earned a program-record four postseason honors Monday, as three different Rams were recognized by the WWPA, including Ariel Arcidiacono as the Newcomer of the Year. Read More [+]04/15/2013Twenty-two former Colorado State water polo players rejoined the program on Saturday for CSU's first reunion game. In all, 40 of the program's 63 all-time players were in attendance. Read More [+]04/10/2013The CSU water polo team will host a reunion game on Saturday, bringing back 15-20 former players. The scrimmage will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the VMAC in Thornton. Admission is free. Read More [+]04/07/2013The CSU water polo team concluded its regular season on Sunday, falling to Santa Clara and No. 8 Hawai'i. The Rams will next compete at the WWPA Championships (April 26-28). Read More [+]04/06/2013After a loss to UC San Diego early in the day, the Rams came back for a close win against Cal State Monterey Bay Saturday afternoon in the first day of The Bronco. Read More [+]04/05/2013Colorado State (7-16, 2-3 WWPA) began its California weekend with a challenging day against WWPA conference foe Cal State East Bay, losing the pairing 13-8. Read More [+]04/04/2013The CSU water polo team will play in its final regular-season games this weekend. The Rams will play a WWPA contest at Cal State East Bay on Friday, followed by four games in The Bronco. Read More [+]03/25/2013Sunday was a challenge for the Colorado State water polo team. The Rams faced two top-20 teams, falling to No. 19 Hartwick, 18-5, and No. 2 Stanford, 16-6. Read More [+]03/23/2013Competing twice on Day 2 of the Arizona State Tournament, CSU earned a split, defeating La Verne, 13-9, after falling to No. 18 Michigan, 12-4, at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center. Read More [+]03/22/2013Playing in one of the most challenging tournaments in the country, Colorado State feels as if it let a win slip away on Friday, dropping two on the first day of action from the Mona Plummer Aquatic... Read More [+]03/20/2013After a 3-1 weekend in California, the Rams return to the pool for arguably their most challenging week of the season, facing four ranked teams in three days at the Arizona State Tournament. Read More [+]