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Water polo preview: Rams kick off season in Michigan

The CSU water polo program will begin its ninth season this weekend, facing four nationally ranked teams in the Michigan Kick-Off.

The CSU water polo program will begin its ninth season this weekend, facing four nationally ranked teams in the Michigan Kick-Off.

Jan. 17, 2013

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Kicking off the season

The water polo team—CSU’s youngest program—begins its ninth season this weekend, and it will start in a familiar place: Michigan. The Rams have competed in the premier Michigan Kick-Off tournament each season, and again, it will be one of the most challenging. CSU will face four teams in the two-day tourney, with all four ranked in the top 15 of this week’s CWPA Varsity Top 20 poll. What’s more, San Diego State, which is competing in the tournament but will not face CSU, is also ranked in the top 10.

“Year in and year out, this tournament is known nationwide as one of the premier tournaments in the country,” associate head coach Mike Moody said. “CSU has never shied away from top competition, and this is no different.”

Historically, the Rams have struggled against the elite competition, going just 2-26 in the tournament—last winning in 2006. What makes it even more challenging is that CSU is 0-32 against its four opponents this weekend.

“We’ve played this level of competition before, so we won’t be surprised by it,” Moody said. “Our goal is to play our game. I expect us to play really, really tough team defense and an up-tempo transition game. I really feel like our offense is going to take care of itself. Our main focus will be to play really tough defense and to limit the teams’ opportunities to score quickly on us. Our speed and endurance is a strength of ours, so we need to use it.”

Despite struggling in the tournament, CSU has had several near-upsets over the years, including coming within one goal of beating No. 13 Indiana in 2011.

Follow the action
The Michigan Kick-Off Tournament Central page will have updated scores and stats at the conclusion of each game throughout the weekend.

Searching for a milestone win
A victory against any of this weekend’s four opponents would turn some heads. It would also be CSU’s second-ever win over a ranked foe. The Rams’ lone victory over a ranked team came on April 11, 2010, in a neutral pool against then-No. 17 UC San Diego.

Fourth in the WWPA
For the second consecutive season, CSU has been picked by the WWPA coaches to finish fourth in the league. It ties the highest-ever preseason seed.

“We went into the WWPA Championships last year seeded No. 8, so to have us at No. 4, I’m a little bit surprised,” associate head coach Mike Moody said. “I know the talent that we have, and what we’re capable of doing, but for others to see that as well, that feels good.”

Finishing ahead of CSU in the preseason poll is Loyola Marymount (49 points), UC San Diego (43) and Santa Clara (36). Loyola Marymount and UC San Diego are currently ranked. The bottom half of the poll includes Cal State East Bay (24), Sonoma State (20), Cal State Monterey Bay (15) and Cal State San Bernardino (7).

Scheduling tough opponents
Coach Mike Moody is known to piece together tough schedules, noting that more than half of his team’s opponents over the past two seasons have been against teams ranked at some point in the Women’s Varsity Top 20 poll. This season is no different, as 11 of CSU’s 24 schedule games are against teams currently ranked. CSU’s tournament at Santa Clara (April 6-7) has not announced the field yet.

2012 highlights
• The program received its first-ever national ranking, earning the No. 20 spot in the Women’s Varsity Top 20 poll on Jan. 25.
• CSU earned three All-WWPA honors, including Kallie Berry (third team), Caroline Young (honorable mention) and Kelcy Barott (freshman).
• Four players earned Academic recognition from the WWPA and ACWPC: Kallier Berry, Michelle Smith, Stephanie Weed and Caroline Young.
• As a team, CSU was one of 13 schools to have a cumulative grade-point average above 3.0.
• It marked the first season played in the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, CSU’s new home facility and state-of-the-art pool in Thornton, Colo.
• The Rams recorded two victories in the WWPA Championships, securing the No. 6 spot after entering seeded eighth.




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