To start its inaugural season, the CSU women's water polo team went 1-4 after being thrown into battle with some of the best teams in the nation.
First, the Rams went up against the No. 9 ranked host, the Michigan Wolverines.
The Wolverines jumped all over the Rams in the beginning, grabbing a 2-0 lead to start the game. Fortunately for the Rams, junior captain Marisa Fernandez scored their first goal with 1:02 left to play in the first period. At intermission, CSU trailed 2-1 only to see the team's hopes slip away in the remaining three periods. The Rams only scored four more goals while the Wolverines managed to get 15 overall, beating the Rams 15-5.
The Rams came into this tournament knowing it would be a learning experience, which the team proved in their first contest with Michigan. Next up would be their greatest lesson of all; they were to be playing UCLA, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
UCLA has six Olympic athletes on its team, but the Bruins only had four of them play against the Rams. With credentials like that, UCLA planned to intimidate CSU. That wasn't the case, said to CSU head coach John Mattos.
"The kids weren't intimidated against UCLA," he said.
He was also quick to add that the Rams did get dominated by the Bruins, losing to them 22-0.
"This team (UCLA) is not going to get beat. I can't imagine anyone matching up against that lineup," Mattos said.
After the Rams gathered up the notes they took from their first two learning sessions, they applied them against Slippery Rock.
Slippery Rock was the Rams' third game of the day, so they came out with a fight.
The Rams beat up on Slippery Rock, winning the game 10-3 with goals from junior captain Holly Stanfill and freshmen Emi McCullough and Leah Kelly.
On the second day, however, the Rams didn't get that sweet taste of victory again. They matched up against two very good teams in No. 11 Indiana and Michigan State.
In the Indiana game, the Rams had troubles holding the Hoosiers off in the first half.
"Indiana came out strong; we weren't playing polo like we did the day before," Mattos said.
By the second half, the Rams had fixed a few things and finally started to play the way they wanted.
"In the second half we played them to a draw. We just didn't score a lot of goals," Mattos said.
In the end, the Rams lost their third game of the tournament against Indiana 13-3.
With only one game left, the Rams came out and played against a tough Michigan State team.
"The game came down to the last six seconds," Mattos said. "We just waited too long to score, and they got a goal that they shouldn't have gotten."
CSU lost the game 11-10, but the game was the best team game the Rams played all tournament.
"It was a good experience; the kids played excellent polo against very good teams," Mattos said. "We did more than we anticipated in this tournament, now we can come back and go to work on some things."
The team will have more than a month to prepare for its next competition, which is a tentatively scheduled game against Colorado College. The Rams will then host their first ever tournament on March 12-13.