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Water polo faces tough test at Triton Invitational



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Head Coach Ryan Castle rallies players during half-time. The women's water polo team beat UC Santa Barbara, 7-6, on January 27th. Matthieu Picard Buy Photos

When No. 12 IU travels to San Diego for this weekend’s Triton Invitational, it will be a homecoming for senior Sarah Young. Young, who is from the San Diego area, said she was excited to head home and play in front of family members and friends.

“I’m so lucky to be able to play in my hometown,” Young said. “To be able to play in front of my old coaches and playing against some of my old teammates from high school makes it that much more special.”

IU will face off against a familiar opponent in the first game of the tournament. They will play UC San Diego, whom IU beat 8-6 in their first meeting this season. Sarah Young scored a hat-trick and provided two assists for IU, and they withstood a furious fourth quarter rally to pull out the win.

Games between IU and UC San Diego have always been a competitive affair, with both teams coming away with their fair share of wins. IU coach Ryan Castle has already become familiar with the back-and-forth nature of the rivalry, and knows that it will be a tough task to beat the Tritons for a second time.

“We match up really well with each other,” Castle said. “It’s very competitive. They’ve got great centers, they’re pretty fast, they’ve got some good goalkeepers, and we match up in the same areas, so it’s always going to come down to a missed assignment somewhere.”

A key part in stopping the UC San Diego attack will be senior goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault. Gaudreault was recently named Defensive Player of the Week by the CWPA after racking up 24 saves, three steals, and an assist in 88 minutes at the Hoosier Invitational two weeks ago.  It is her fifth weekly award of her career, and Castle spoke highly of her recent performances.

“In the cage, she adds a lot of stability to us," Castle said. “She’s very good at directing, and she’s also good at setting up the next play.”

Also receiving CWPA recognition was sophomore attacker Mollie Williams and freshman attacker Jessica Rodriguez, who both made the CWPA’s weekly honor roll. Williams racked up five goals, three assists and two steals, while Rodriguez netted the game-winner in IU’s 7-6 victory over No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.

Joining IU in the Triton Invitational field will be national powerhouses No. 4 UCLA and No. 2 USC. IU is in the same four-team group as UCLA, and will get their shot at the Bruins if they can knock off UC San Diego in the first game. Both UCLA and USC are perennial national title contenders, and Castle said his players are focused on what they can execute, and not the quality of the opponents.

“Winning a tournament in February doesn’t mean much if we don’t win the tournament at the end of April,” Castle said. “We want to be competitive and I’m not playing any game to lose, but it also comes down to how experienced our kids are.”

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