The CSU water polo team will be leaving the cold of Colorado for a weeklong trip to California, attempting to stay undefeated in conference play.
The team has been out of action for the past two weeks, using the off-time for extra conditioning and game scheming. The Rams’ (8-9, 6-0 WWPA) last game ended in a loss, but the team has been putting in extra workouts in preparation for the team’s biggest competitive weekend.
“We’ve kicked up the training in the weight room the past two weeks,” said coach Mike Moody.
Water polo, similar to basketball, has a 35-second-shot-clock, meaning once the goalie obtains the ball the team has 35 seconds to swim the length of the 25-meter pool and take a shot, making the extra conditioning not only helpful but also essential.
The Rams will face three conference opponents this weekend: Loyola Marymount, Cal State-San Bernardino and Sonoma State. The Rams will also take on the always competitive Princeton.
Saturday’s first game, and biggest challenge, pits the Rams against the top team in the Western Water Polo Association, Loyola Marymount University (7-4, 1-0 WWPA). The Lions are No. 9 in the nation, and are led by senior Nicole Hughes, who had 15 goals in three games this season.
“They’re always a very physical team, very disciplined,” Moody said. “They have a lot of experience and good athletes. They’re always top in the conference.”
The Rams are 0-6 against top-20 teams and know that this game will be a melee to the very end. The Rams must play a good game against a team with so much talent if they want any chance to win.
“We are going to have to go out there and play very tough defense, and very, very smart offense,” Moody said. “Controlling the ball and shooting high percentage shots and not turning the ball over, pushing our transitions and counter attacks.”
A win against the best team in the conference would put the CSU water polo team on the map, earning them first place in the WWPA and the top 20 votes the team believes it deserves.
“Oh, (beating LMU) would mean a lot,” Moody said. “It would be huge, it would be a very big step in CSU history and in the direction we want to go.”
Later in the afternoon the Rams will play Princeton (7-3) of the Ivy League. The Rams don’t get the chance to play many schools from the East Coast and will take the opportunity to size themselves up against the competition.
On Sunday the Rams will go against Cal State-San Bernardino (6-7, 0-2 WWPA). This marks the first time Rams will face the rival Coyotes this season. The Rams like to take each weekend one game at a time and will continue that mentality this weekend.
“(We play) very team oriented, physical defense and smart offense,” Moody said. “That’s what we’ve been doing all year and that’s what we need to continue doing this weekend.”
The Rams will wrap up the weekend against the Sonoma State Sea Wolves (4-7, 3-2 WWPA) The Rams will look to leading scorer Ali Pavlik, 27 goals, to help them put the Sea Wolves down in what should be a very physical game.
The Rams will stay in California for the week of spring break to train and condition before playing in another tournament next Saturday. The Rams will face off against Cal State-San Bernardino once more along with three other competitive programs: Wagner, Cal-Baptist and Redlands.
Water polo beat writer Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.