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Family ties bind Schaefer to pool

Water polo captain Shelby Schaefer, whose three sisters each played water polo or swam collegiately, has high expectations for her senior season.

Water polo captain Shelby Schaefer, whose three sisters each played water polo or swam collegiately, has high expectations for her senior season.

Jan. 11, 2013

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By Gary Ozzello

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - It didn't take Shelby Schaefer very long to find the pool.

Schaefer will lead Colorado State's water polo team this week as the Rams open the season with an exhibition contest against Cal State-Northridge Jan. 14 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

The Rams then jump into regular-season competition at Michigan's Kickoff-Off tournament, opening one of the most challenging schedules in the country.

Of 24 games scheduled to date, 12 of the teams on the slate were ranked in the top 20 at the end of last season, including Stanford, the defending national champion.

"I think we're going to be really solid this year. We only graduated two seniors, so I think we have a great team. We have a lot of athletic incoming freshmen and some experienced returners, so I'm excited for a good season," she said.

Schaefer is a senior from Roseville, Calif., who swam at Air Force as a freshman in 2009-10, then transferred to Colorado State.

She's been a mainstay for Colorado State's program, and figures if the Rams maintain their focus, they will achieve success in 2013.

"We have a time period where we have two or three weeks without any games, so keeping up the intensity and not letting down will be really important. We have a really fast team this year, so I think we need to use that to our advantage," she said.

Schaefer is a team captain as chosen by her teammates.  She enters her final season of competition ninth in the program's history in career goals (71) and seventh in assists (61)--including 38 last season, second-most in school history.

Her prominence in the pool for the Rams should come as no surprise considering her athletic heritage.  Her father, Marty, played football at San Jose State.  She also had plenty of pool influence from older sisters Valerie (Cal State-Northridge) and Lindsay (Air Force) who both swam, and Cassie, a water polo player at UC Davis.

Schaeffer knows many fans may be unfamiliar with the nuances of her sport.  

"I think the biggest surprise to new water polo fans is that we're not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool. The other thing is how physical it is. The Olympics had the underwater cameras, which showed fans all of the grabbing, touching, pushing. You get to see a little bit of that from surface level, but a lot of what's going on is under water."

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