The No. 13 water polo team will face a big test this weekend at the UC Santa Barbara Winter Invitational.
Even though the Hoosiers will take on No. 25 Fresno State, No. 16 UC San Diego and No. 5 Arizona State before playing an exhibition game against the Chinese national team, IU Coach Ryan Castle said he is more concerned about his team’s play rather than the quality of the opponents.
“We’ve got our own measuring sticks," Castle said. "We’ve practiced certain things. If we execute those and still lose the game, I’m still going to be happy because it’s about what we’re doing and our identity.”
A big part of this team’s identity is the returning group of core players from last year’s team. Five seniors return to finish off their careers, and they are joined by a group of underclassmen with a strong class of incoming freshmen.
Among those veterans are senior defender Kelly Matthews and sophomore attacker Mollie Williams, who led IU last season by combining to score 103 goals last season.
After a strong season that saw the Hoosiers make it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship, the amount of returnees is a source of excitement with the players as well as the coaches.
“It’s nice that a lot of the team has played together before,” senior attacker Sarah Myers said. “We sort of have an idea of where they want passes and how people do things in the pool.”
This type of familiarity is part of the reason why expectations are high for this Hoosier team, especially after they were ranked 13th in the first week of the CWPA poll. However, Castle wants to ensure that this comfort doesn’t breed complacency.
“It certainly gives you a little piece of mind, however there’s also the weight of expectation.” Castle said. “Now we’ve got these expectations. Are we working towards them, or are we just expecting them to happen?”
These expectations that the team has set for itself include winning the CWPA championship, and making it to the NCAA Tournament, something that junior defender Karrie Kozokar said is very important to the Hoosiers.
“That’s always a goal for our team,” she said.
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