Dec. 6, 2012
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Colorado State water polo coach Mike Moody announced his team's 2013 schedule on Thursday, and again, it will be among the most difficult in the nation.
In all, CSU will play at least nine teams who were ranked in the top 20 of last year's final Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) poll, including a tournament in March against five of those teams. On the schedule that weekend will be Stanford, the reigning national champion.
"I'm really excited for our schedule this year," said Moody, now in his eighth season with the program. "We changed some things up this year, and I'm hoping it gives a different look four our girls."
Last year's strength of schedule ranked No. 24 nationally, with this year's likely rivaling that mark. CSU will also end up playing more high-level opponents, as two tournaments' opponents have yet to be announced. One of those tournaments, the Michigan Kick-Off, is historically known as one of the premier events in the country, and last year CSU played four teams ranked in the top 12 that weekend.
While the Rams will face numerous ranked teams throughout the course of the season, CSU is hoping to earn its way into those rankings themselves.
In 2012, CSU received its first-ever national ranking, earning the No. 20 spot in late January. The Rams would struggle in the early going against top-level opponents, however, falling out of the polls.
"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."
The 2013 season will begin on Jan. 14 against Cal State Northridge in a neutral-site exhibition contest in Colorado Springs, Colo. The two teams will square off at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
"We're always excited to begin a new season, but I think this will be fun for the girls to compete at the Olympic Training Center."
From there, CSU will play in three tournaments over the next several weeks, including at Michigan, Brown and UC Davis. In the Aggie Shootout in Davis, Calif., CSU will face two of its WWPA foes--Sonoma State and Santa Clara.
Sandwiched between the tournaments will be an exhibition contest against a Colorado All-Star club team, comprised of the best players from the University of Colorado and University of Denver club programs. The game began last season, with CSU defeating the All-Stars, 18-2.
"Last year we played the game, and it was a great opportunity for us, but also for the state of Colorado," Moody said. "We're going to try and continue this tradition, and add more teams to make it a true all-star game."
The game will be held on Feb. 23 at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton, Colo. It will be one of two home contests in 2013--both are exhibition games and will not count in the team's standings--played at the new state-of-the-art facility, which became home to the Rams in 2012.
While the Rams don't have any official home contests in 2013, CSU has at least three guaranteed home conference games in 2014, in addition to hosting the 2014 WWPA Championships in April.
Perhaps the toughest portion of CSU's schedule will come during a three-day stretch in late March, when the Rams play six matches at Arizona State. The tournament will feature the Sun Devils (ranked No. 5 in last year's final poll), Michigan (No. 13), Hartwick (No. 17), California Baptist (No. 19) and the defending national champion, Stanford Cardinal.
"It's going to be really, really exciting and challenging," Moody said. "We're going to be in the same pool as Stanford. On this year's team, they have three Olympians from the 2012 gold-medal-winning team, so it'll be a great opportunity for us."
The Rams will then face Cal State East Bay in a conference match the first week of April, followed by a tournament at Santa Clara and a home exhibition game with some of CSU's former players (April 13).
"It's our first true alumni reunion," Moody said. "We have a number of players who will be back, and it's an opportunity for us to recognize the history and tradition that they started nine years ago. A lot of the girls coming back are the ones who started it, and it's important for us to remember those who paved the way."
CSU will then travel back to Santa Clara to compete in the WWPA Championships. The Rams, who were the No. 8 seed going into last year's conference tournament, earned two wins and a sixth-place finish.
"We finished stronger than where we started, and we're looking to pick up where we left off at the end of last year," Moody said.