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Water polo preview: Rams kick off 2012 in Michigan

CSU will rely heavily on senior captain Kallie Berry.

CSU will rely heavily on senior captain Kallie Berry.

Jan. 19, 2012

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The CSU water polo team kicks off its eighth season this weekend. For full access, please review the 2012 media guide.

Michigan Kick-Off
Canham Natatorium, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Saturday, Jan. 21
Game 1 - Colorado State vs. UCLA, 9:30 a.m. (MT)
Game 2 - Michigan vs. Indiana, 11 a.m.
Game 3 - Indiana vs. UCLA, 5 p.m.
Game 4 - Michigan vs. Colorado State, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 22
Game 5 - Colorado State vs. Indiana, 8 a.m.
Game 6 - Michigan vs. UCLA, 9:15 a.m.
Game 7 - Michigan vs. Colorado State, 1 p.m.

Kicking off the season
The Rams enter the 2012 season in a familiar place. Seven times in the program's eight-year history, CSU has opened the season in the Michigan Kick-Off. The Rams will look to improve their mark in the tournament, having gone just 3-22 all-time.

"After a long fall, we're ready to get into the pool and get competition started," coach Mike Moody said. "Everybody's excited to play some games. We're starting with the Michigan Kick-Off, which is a high-profile, challenging tournament, especially to start the season. But we're looking forward to one of the toughest challenges we'll attend."

CSU will be playing familiar opponents--it has faced all three of this weekend's teams in prior year's Kick-Offs--but will be searching for its first win over any of them, as it is currently is 0-22 combined vs. UCLA, Michigan and Indiana.

Scheduling tough opponents
Coach Mike Moody is known to piece together tough schedules, noting that more than half of last year's schedule was against teams ranked at some point in the Women's Varsity National Top 20 Poll. This season is no different, as the Rams will clash with seven teams ranked in the preseason top-20 poll. An additional three teams received votes, and four of the teams that are ranked CSU will play twice. In total, 14 of CSU's 23 Division-I games scheduled thus far are against teams ranked or receiving votes in the preseason poll.

Out of the gate
The schedule is demanding, and it starts right out of the gate as CSU's first five opponents are ranked. The Rams open the season with the Michigan Kick-Off, facing No. 3 UCLA on Saturday. Later in the day, CSU plays host Michigan, ranked No. 12, followed by a meeting with 10th-ranked Indiana on Sunday and another matchup against the Wolverines to conclude the weekend.

Four days later (Jan. 26), CSU will be back in action against No. 15 UC San Diego for its home opener.

Better than ever
While CSU's schedule is tougher than ever, so are the Rams. The 2012 Preseason Women's Varsity National Top 20 Poll was released on Jan. 5, with the Rams garnering five votes, their most ever.

The five votes were the most by a team outside the top 20, giving the Rams the No. 21 slot in the poll. It is the most votes ever received by CSU, and ties the highest overall ranking in program history. The Rams, which received votes on five occasions last season--but never more than three--peaked at No. 21.

2011 highlights

  • The team finished the 2011 regular season as the No. 4 seed entering the Western Water Polo Association conference tournament, its highest ever seed.
  • CSU received votes in the top-20 poll on five occasions, including a program-best 21st.
  • Coach Mike Moody's team was one of 31 water polo programs nationally with a team grade-point average above 3.0. In all, four players--Aspen Rapp, Kallie Berry, Stephanie Weed and Maggie McShane--were honored and named to the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches all-academic team.
  • Senior Ali Pavlik earned the program's first All-America honor, being selected as an honorable mention.
  • The Rams earned three Western Water Polo Association honors. Pavlik became the program's initial first-team selection, while senior Orsi Nadasdy was a second-team pick and freshman Lauren Porteus was named to the all-freshman team.
  • Overall, CSU finished with a record of 13-16, its second-highest winning percentage in program history.



New aquatic center
For seven years, EPIC has been home to the Colorado State water polo team. But beginning in 2012, the Rams will relocate to the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center (VMAC), a new facility located in Thornton, Colo.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the state of Colorado," coach Mike Moody said. "We're more centrally located there. I hope to bring a good fan base from the Denver and Boulder areas."

It also allows the Rams to play their home games in a regulation water polo pool--25 meters in length by 20 meters in width, and at least seven meters deep--for the first time.

The VMAC is a $19.5-million facility that features a 765,000-gallon, 50-meter Olympic-size pool. The facility opened just over a year ago.

CSU will play all home games at the VMAC, in addition to practicing there on Saturdays.

"It's a beautiful facility and everything we need," Moody said. "The VMAC is very excited to have us there. They're working with us really, really well."

What to look for
The Rams are coming off one of their best seasons in program history, and despite losing four seniors, are joined by a veteran group of players, led by Kallie Berry. The senior captain currently ranks in the top 10 in CSU history in goals, assists, steals, field blocks and ejections drawn. She will be joined by fellow seniors Amber Bryan and Michelle Price.

"We have a couple players who will really be leading us," Moody said. "There's two-time all-conference player Kallie Berry, but there's also Shelby Schaefer and Caroline Young. We expect a lot out of those three. Then we have two really capable goalies. I'm not sure who will be our starter yet. Those 3-5 players we'll heavily rely on."

Young, a junior utility player, ranks in CSU's top-10 in goals, assists, field blocks and ejections drawn. Junior Melissa Fisher can become the program's all-time saves leader with another solid season in goal, but challenging her will be Loyola-Marymount transfer Michelle Slagle.


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