SAN DIEGO -
Winner of three straight games, the seventh-ranked San Diego State women's water polo hosts UC Irvine in conference play Thursday before traveling to UC Santa Barbara for the Gauchos' two-day Invitational Saturday and Sunday.
The Aztecs (6-3 overall, 1-2 MPSF) welcome in the 17th-ranked Anteaters (9-8/1-4) for a 3 p.m. meeting at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center on Thursday. SDSU then will play four games over two days Saturday and Sunday in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The Aztecs' first game is at 12:30 p.m. against host No. 11 UCSB, and the winner of that game faces the winner of No. 2 USC and No. 17 UC Irvine at 4 p.m. while the first-game losers play at 5:10 p.m. Sunday's match-ups will be determined by the winners of first-day play.
Recapping The Action Thus Far
The Aztecs extended their season-best win streak to three games by sweeping a pair at UC San Diego's Mini-Tournament on March 1.
Head coach Carin Crawford was able to rest her starters in the Aztecs' first game against Div. III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Junior Chelsy Smith (Roseville, Calif./Sierra College) registered perfect 3-for-3 shooting as SDSU ran out to leads of 6-0 after the first quarter and 9-1 at halftime. Sixteen players saw at least two quarters of pool time and eight different Aztecs scored, including the first collegiate scores by freshmen Alyssa Banks (Mission Viejo, Calif./Capistrano Valley HS) and Veronica Ortega (El Cajon, Calif./El Cajon Valley HS).
Then in game two of the day, the Aztecs knocked off a top-10 team for the third time this season with an 8-4 defeat of host No. 9 UC San Diego. After jumping out to a 4-0 lead on three of junior Holly Hartzell's (Vista, Calif./Fallbrook HS) four goals in the game, SDSU maintained at least a four-goal edge the rest of the way. Junior Ashley Zabel (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch HS) completed a strong afternoon of action by making nine saves.
Aztec 2-Meter Shots
A trio of veterans has supplied the Aztecs' scoring punch early this season. Despite sitting out out the CMS game as Crawford rested her starters, the triumvirate of seniors Amber Prestegard (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison HS), Casey Finnegan (Fresno, Calif./Clovis West HS) and junior Hartzell have combined for 50 of the Aztecs' 84 goals (59.5 percent of SDSU's scoring) as well as 28 assists and 37 steals. They are the only three double-digit goal-scorers for the Aztecs thus far.
SDSU's goalie tandem of juniors Ashley Zabel and Sara Daseler have played sparked the Aztecs to their current three-game win streak. After allowing 13 goals against just six saves over five quarters in losses to Long Beach and USC, Zabel allowed just five goals vs. 11 saves over six quarters in a strong performance at the UCSD Mini-Tourney. Daseler played the entire game in SDSU's 9-4 win over San Jose State and has allowed just eight goals while making 17 saves in her last six quarters.
Junior Chelsy Smith, a Sierra College transfer who redshirted last season, is a perfect 5-for-5 in goal attempts over her last three games and is second on the team with at .538 shooting.
After scoring at least two goals in five of her first six games, senior utility Amber Prestegard has been kept off the scoreboard in her last two games but registered a team-high three assists in each game.
Scouting UC Irvine
The No. 17 Anteaters have been busy early in the season, having played more games than any other MPSF team. They stand ninth in the MPSF with a 1-4 conference record and an overall mark of 9-8. UCI enters Thursday's game with the Aztecs having won 4-of-5, including a 10-7 win over Pacific for its only MPSF win.
Junior Erica Horman leads the team with 29 goals, while senior Meghan O'Donnell and junior Melissa Fernandez each have 15 goals. Junior goalkeeper Sunceray Chamblee leads the team with 55 saves.
SDSU has never lost to Irvine, holding a 7-0 all-time record. Last season, the Aztecs won the regular-season conference meeting 7-6 behind three Casey Finnegan goals, then defeated the Anteaters again in the MPSF Tournament 14-8 thanks to three goals each by the trio of Amber Prestegard, Holly Hartzell and Finnegan.
Scouting The UC Santa Barbara Field
The UCSB Invitational's 16-team field includes 14 of the nation's top 20 teams, and the Aztecs' first-day bracket includes four of them (counting SDSU). First-game opponent No. 11 UCSB is 6-6 (0-3 MPSF) entering a conference game with Hawai'i on Friday.
Potential second-game opponents are conference leader and second-ranked USC (9-1/5-0) and No. 8 UCI, which the Aztecs would have played just two days earlier in San Diego.
Last season at the UCSB Invite, SDSU won its first game before dropping three straight to finish in eighth place.
In her fifth season leading the Aztec program, Crawford has guided the Aztecs to four straight top-eight national finishes and seasons of 18 or more wins while compiling an overall record of 90-69. She has coached six All-Americans, seven all-MPSF performers, 10 all-MPSF academic selections and 13 AWPCA all-academic honorees.
2003 Aztec Women's Water Polo Stat Leaders
No Player GP-GS Att Scored Ast Stl Saves
1 Ashley Zabel 8-6 0 0 8 4 40
1A Sara Daseler 6-3 0 0 4 5 30
5 C. Finnegan 8-8 34 14 5 20 0
6 D. Delgado 8-2 13 5 6 11 0
10 A. Prestegard 8-8 37 17 13 5 0
11 Chelsy Smith 9-1 13 7 2 4 1
14 Holly Hartzell 8-8 32 19 10 12 1
SDSU Team 9 221 84 68 101 80
MPSF Standings (as of Mar. 3)
School MPSF Pct. Overall Pct.
1. USC 5-0 1.000 9-1 .900
2. Stanford 2-0 1.000 7-0 1.000
3. L. Beach State 3-1 .750 9-2 .818
4. UCLA 3-2 .600 6-3 .667
5. San Jose State 2-2 .500 9-6 .600
Hawai'i 1-1 .500 2-4 .333
California 1-1 .000 5-3 .625
8. San Diego State 1-2 .333 6-3 .667
9. UC Irvine 1-4 .200 9-8 .529
10. UC S. Barbara 0-3 .000 6-6 .500
Pacific 0-3 - 4-6 .400
AWPCA Top 20 (Mar. 5)
Rank School Last
1. Stanford 1
2. USC 2
3. UCLA 3
4. L. Beach State 4
5. California 5
6. Loy. Marymount 6
7. San Diego State 7
8. Hawai'i 8
9. UC San Diego 9
10. San Jose State 11
11. UC S. Barbara 10
12. Indiana 14
13. Michigan 13
14. Hartwick 12
15. UC Davis 15
16. Princeton 16
17. UC Irvine 18
18. Brown 17
19. Arizona State 19
20. Pacific 20