After beginning their season in California last weekend, the IU water polo team is looking forward to staying at home this time around.
“It’s so nice playing home matches. I know a lot of families can come to the home games,” sophomore Emily Powell said. “It’s great being at IU and having all your fans around you.”
The Hoosiers will continue their tough schedule at the start of the season as they take on Toronto University in an exhibition, followed by a top-15 showdown against No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night.
IU is coming off an appearance in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend, where they went 2-1. IU knocked off No. 25 Fresno State and No. 16 UC San Diego on the first day before falling to No. 5 Arizona State on the final day of the competition. After those three games, IU Head Coach Ryan Castle said his team still needed to adjust to the physicality that comes with playing top teams.
“We’re just working on being tough. We were a little bit soft in some of our fouls and allowing the ball to swing,” Castle said “So we’re really just working on that and trying to make sure that we don’t allow the ball to get into center.”
Another area of focus is the defensive side of the ball, as Powell observed the Hoosiers could use some work on defending in certain situations.
“Our main focus this weekend is definitely counter-defense and being fast on the turnover just to stop their counters,” Powell explained.
Both Castle and Powell noted the experience of playing tough teams early in the season would pay off come tournament time.
“It’s good having them at the start because it’s the standard we want to be,” Powell said. “We can see what we need to work on and how we can get better.”
While the experience of the team is certainly a strength, Jessica Rodriguez and Juli Hilovsky, both freshmen, have been featured in each of IU’s first three games this season. Rodriguez notched a goal in the season opener against Fresno State and has tallied 13 shots on the season. Castle spoke highly of all the freshmen and said they were adjusting quickly and could contribute to the team this season.
“They’re very sharp learners, and they really just want to get in and help,” Castle said. “We need to work them into the rotation pretty early and not necessarily get them comfortable with us, but have us be comfortable with them.”
IU opens its home slate with a game at 10 a.m. Saturday before taking on No. 14 UC Santa Barbara at 8 p.m. The Hoosiers will play two more games Sunday, with the first game at noon against Iona and the second at 2:30 p.m. versus Mckendree. All games will be held at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center.
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