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Water Polo Back in Action This Weekend at UCI Invite

SDSU Water Polo heads to the UCI Invitational this weekend.
SDSU Water Polo heads to the UCI Invitational this weekend.

Feb. 20, 2014

SAN DIEGO - No. 18 San Diego State returns to action this weekend when it competes at the UCI Invitational. The two-day event split between two sites begins Saturday with the Aztecs opening tournament play at Corona del Mar High School.

First up for SDSU is third-ranked UCLA at 10:30 a.m. PT. Depending on the outcome, the Aztecs will face either Hawai`i or UC San Diego at 4:45 p.m. or 6 p.m., at Corona del Mar High. Sunday's competition site, UCI or CdM, will be determined by San Diego State's day-one results.

The Aztecs, who enter the invitational with a 5-3 record, will face a Bruins squad that is 12-1 on the season. UCLA last played on Feb. 13 at UC Irvine and earned a 6-5 victory. The decision snapped a brief one-game losing streak after the Bruins were on the wrong end of an 8-4 score at Stanford in the title game of the Stanford Invitational.

SDSU's other potential Saturday foes, No. 6 Hawai`i and No. 13 UC San Diego, both come into the weekend sporting two-game winning streaks. The Rainbow Wahine is 4-2 after most recently splitting four games at the Stanford Invite in early February. UH fell to UC Irvine and Stanford to open tournament action before beating UC Davis, 9-8, and San José State, 12-11, to close out the weekend. Before heading to Irvine, Hawai`i will take on Claremont on Thursday, Feb. 20.

The Tritons, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-1 effort at the Bison Invitational in Lewisburg, Pa. UCSD took down Michigan in the opening game before being edged by Princeton. Then on the final day, UC San Diego beat George Washington and Wagner to move its record to 9-3.

San Diego State will be back in action for the first time since Feb. 9, when they dropped a pair of games at the UCSD Triton Invitational. The tourney started off rough as the Aztecs were nudged in overtime, 9-8, by No. 20 Santa Clara. SDSU, however, responded in resounding fashion against No. 19 Hartwick, 15-7, to post its second win in three days over the Hawks. The Aztecs were unable to build on their momentum on the final day as they were defeated by No. 13 Indiana, 10-6, and by No. 16 UC Santa Barbara in another overtime contest, 7-6.

Freshman Caroline Israels has been a bright spot for San Diego State as she leads the team with 14 goals, while seeing action in all eight games. Junior Anique Hermann, last week's Golden Coast Player of the Week, is second in goals scored with 11, and leads the team in assists (19) and ejections drawn (22). Another freshman, Ioli Benekou, meanwhile, has a team-best 15 steals to go with 10 goals, which is tied with junior All-American Taelor Moreno and freshman Alyssa Diacono for third on the squad.

To date, SDSU freshmen and sophomores make up for 68.3 percent of the team's scoring (56 of 82 goals), 58.8 percent of assists (40 of 68) and 68.0 percent of steals (66 of 97). Only three times this season has an upperclassman led the team in scoring. Defensively, sophomore goalkeeper Rachel Mitchell has been superb, starting all eight games while averaging 10.0 saves.

After its time in Irvine, the Aztecs will return home on March 1 to face Cal Baptist in their first-ever Golden Coast Conference game. First sprint is slated for 11:30 a.m. PT. Then on March 2, SDSU will return to Irvine to face the Anteaters at 1 p.m. PT.