The CSU women's water polo team will make history this weekend when it plays its first game ever for the university. The Rams will make their debut by playing in the Michigan Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Rams have a daunting task in front of them as they will be playing three highly ranked opponents. They will be scheduled to play UCLA, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, followed by No. 9 Michigan and then No. 11 Indiana.
"I'm really excited just to travel and to go out there and play against the best in the nation," said freshman Emi McCullough. "I think it will be a little scary to play against the Olympians on UCLA, but I know that I'm going to learn so much just watching them play."
The Rams have a team full of young talent with their oldest players being the two captains, Holly Stanfill and Marisa Fernandez, who are juniors. The rest of the team is compiled of freshmen and sophomores, starting with freshman Laura Scruggs, from Boulder Creek, Utah, who led the Rams in their exhibition game against Utah with eight goals.
Learning will be the Rams main goal this tournament considering this is their first year and they are so young.
"I'm excited to play such excellent teams, I've never played teams with so much talent and ability before," said captain Holly Stanfill, "it's going to be a great learning experience."
The overall team goal for the Rams is to just go out there and perform well and give everything they have.
"We have certain goals in mind that we'll try to implement as a team that not necessarily will come down to whether we win or lose, but how truly we play within each quarter and each game," said head coach John Mattos. "Our goals as a team are to try and perform the best as we can on a quarter-to-quarter basis."
While the Rams have been gearing up for this tournament, there have been many nerves building up inside all of the players.
"We're excited, but a little nervous. It will be a very interesting tournament, but it will be a really good experience for everyone," McCullough said.
Sanfill observed the same emotions on the team.
"I think some of the girls on the team are a little scared of who we're going to play," Stanfill said. "But all we have to do is play as hard as we can and that will be just fine.
Mattos is prepared for whatever comes his team's way in the tournament. He is going into this season knowing that it's going to be rough, considering it is the team's inaugural season.
"I think there's going to be a certain amount of intimidation when we go against the likes of UC|LA, but I don't mind if they are intimidated, as long as it doesn't totally affect their decision making once they get into the game," Mattos said.
After coaching the swimming and diving team for 23 years at CSU, Mattos knows that sometimes a team learns more from a loss than a win.
"We're liable to take some beatings, there is no question, but I'd rather start our season knowing exactly what the best is out there so we have something to design our program around for the future," Mattos said.