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Water polo preview: Rams host Colorado State Tournament

CSU will honor its seniors before its game against Indiana on Saturday afternoon.

March 2, 2012

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Colorado State Tournament
March 3-4, 2012 | Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center (Thornton, Colo.)

Saturday, March 3
Colorado State vs. Cal State East Bay, 9 a.m. MT
Renegades vs. Indiana, 10:30 a.m.
Renegades vs. Cal State East Bay, 1 p.m.
Colorado State vs. Indiana, 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 4
Cal State East Bay vs. Indiana, 9 a.m.
Colorado State vs. Renegades, 10:30 a.m.

Colorado State Tournament
For the first time since 2009, CSU will host a tournament, bringing in three teams for the two-day, round-robin competition. The Rams will face Cal State East Bay, a WWPA foe, and nationally ranked Indiana on Saturday, before hosting an exhibition match against the Calgary Renegades, a club team from Canada.

"I'm real excited to have games again," coach Mike Moody said. "It's been a long time since we've faced regulation competition, and I'm even more excited that we get to do it at home. East Bay and Indiana are good, competitive, capable teams, and then on Sunday we get to host international competition. It's a great chance for us to showcase Colorado and the VMAC, and a chance for us to hopefully bring more competition back in the future."

Against the field
The Rams are 10-12 all-time against the other teams competing in this weekend's tournament. The Rams will look to beat Indiana for the first time in program history (currently 0-10, including a 9-6 loss on Jan. 22), and if they can do so, it would be the team's second-ever victory over a ranked opponent. On the contrary, CSU holds more wins against Cal State East Bay (10-3) than any other team. CSU won eight of the first nine games in the series, but over the last two years has split its meetings with the Pioneers. In 2010, the Rams lost in the regular season, 8-7, but upset the Pioneers in the conference tournament. Last year, it was East Bay's chance at revenge as CSU won the regular-season meeting, but lost in the tournament.

About Cal State East Bay
The Pioneers enter the weekend 5-6 on the year, and are coming off their best win of the season, a 13-12 victory over then-No. 20 CSU Bakersfield. Two of East Bay's top five scorers from a year ago are on its current roster, including junior utility player Claire Pierce. Also on this year's roster is senior Jayme Pekarske, its starting goalie. No stats from the 2012 season were provided.

About Indiana
The Hoosiers are 11-4 coming into the weekend, including a 9-6 win over CSU during the season's opening weekend. Indiana also holds wins over Michigan, Hartwick and Brown, three teams mentioned in the latest top-20 poll. Indiana's offense is stemmed from sophomore Shae Fornier, who ranks second in the nation in goals scored (43) and sixth in total points (60). She also has 17 assists (15th nationally) and leads the nation with 40 steals. Colleen McNaught, a freshman attacker ranks second in the nation with 25 assists, and goalie Cassie Wyckoff, a senior, ranks second nationally with 123 saves, and recently became the school's all-time saves leader.

Senior Day
CSU will honor its three seniors Saturday afternoon, including team captain and four-year starter Kallie Berry. The recognition will happen at 2:30 p.m., prior to the start of the game vs. Indiana. Also honored will be two-year starter Amber Bryan, who ranks second on the club with 14 goals, and Michelle Price, who is playing her first year of water polo after swimming for four years as an undergrad at CSU. Berry ranks in the top 6 all-time at CSU in all statistical categories for field players, and will be remembered as one of the best players to don a Rams uniform.

"It will be an emotional day," coach Mike Moody said, "especially for Kallie. It'll definitely be bittersweet as we honor three girls who have had a large impact on our program. We'll look to send them out right with two big wins, and then carry the momentum over for the remainder of the season."

Back at the VMAC
CSU will play its second-ever game at its new home, the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, on Saturday. The Rams fell in their inaugural contest at the VMAC, 14-11, to then-No. 14 UC San Diego. CSU also played an exhibition contest against a combined club team from the University of Colorado and University of Denver on Feb. 18.

For seven years, EPIC had been home to the Colorado State water polo team. But beginning in 2012, the Rams relocated to the 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.

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 eight teams currently ranked in the top-20 poll. An additional four teams are receiving votes, and four of the teams that are ranked CSU will play twice. In total, 16 of CSU's 23 Division-I games scheduled thus far are against teams currently ranked or receiving votes, the first nine contests of the season.

While CSU's schedule is tougher than ever, so are the Rams. CSU has received votes in four of the five weeks this season, and the team even cracked the top-20 for the first time in program history in late January.



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