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No. 13 water polo set to battle three top-20 teams at Aztec Invite


California Baptist University sophomore Lizette Perez holds the ball away from IU junior Sarah Myers during a matchup at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center. Myers finished the game with one goal and one assist to help the Hoosiers defeat the Lancers 13-6. Matt Rasnic Buy Photos

IU has had a lot on its plate in the last week, good and bad. The good news: The Hoosiers jumped up one spot to No. 13 in the latest release of the Collegiate Water Polo Association rankings. The not-so-good: they will play three teams in the top 20 this weekend at the Aztec Invite in San Diego. The women are set to face No. 12 San Jose State, Whittier, No. 16 UC San Diego and No. 17 San Diego State.

The team is currently riding on a nine-game winning streak dating back to Jan. 21. Since then they have outscored opponents 91-45 and have wins against five ranked opponents, including two wins against No. 21 Wagner.

IU Coach Ryan Castle said his team has developed a mindset to push through games no matter the circumstance and to make themselves better in games. He said the team will need to maintain this mindset going into the Aztec Invite.

“I was happy that we were able to grind out wins,” Castle said. “That’s a mindset that we’ve had to develop, and it’s going to be a challenging weekend playing some ranked teams and the best Division III team in Whittier.”

Whittier started out No. 1 in the preseason Division III rankings but have lost against almost all of the Division I teams they have played thus far. Whittier has lost to Hawaii, Cal Baptist and Azusa Pacific, three teams IU has beaten this season.

San Jose State has lost three of its last five games and are currently on a two-game losing streak coming off of losses to No. 11 Pacific and No. 3 UCLA. As far as momentum goes, the Hoosiers have the edge over the Spartans and will look to make it 10 wins in a row.

Being in a west coast tournament, Castle said he is expecting less physical games due to the increasing number of fouls called.

“I think we need to prepare for faster whistles, so that means that there will be more fouls called and the games won’t be as physical,” Castle said. “We’re going to be a little faster on defense so we can keep up the pace with teams.”

IU will also prepare for a rematch against No. 16 UC San Diego. The Hoosiers came out on top last weekend 7-6 holding off the Tritons after junior attacker Sarah Young had to exit the game with a concussion. Young’s status for this weekend is in doubt, and Castle said she probably won’t be able to play.

Castle said although injuries hurt, especially being a small team, they also make the rest of the players better and give younger players more experience. He said the team has been working on their own weaknesses in practice, and hopefully they will be able to catch UC San Diego off-guard defensively.

Castle said he was optimistic that his players, including junior Sarah Myers and freshman Joelle Nacouzi, could meet expectations in California.

“Sarah Myers played through the flu this past weekend, and Joelle has been working well on shooting some high percentage shots,” he said. “I’m looking at them to step up this weekend.”

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