The final match of Indiana water polo’s regular season against No. 9 Arizona State University featured a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference clash between two teams sitting near the bottom of the standings. These two teams met back on Feb. 27, when the Sun Devils blew past the Hoosiers, 16-9, at the Kalbus Invite.
The Sun Devils came into Saturday’s matchup on a three-match losing streak, with a 1-4 record within the MPSF conference and 13-11 mark overall. Freshman attacker Vanda Baksa has turned into the Sun Devils’ star player with a conference-leading 72 goals, 45 total assists and 117 total points so far this season.
In their last matchup, the Hoosiers had a difficult time defending Baksa, who scored eight goals in the Sun Devils’ blowout win. In the rematch, the Hoosiers’ defense responded by holding Baksa to just a single goal.
Senior goalkeeper Mary Askew, senior center Izzy Mandema and senior attacker Tina Doherty have had strong campaigns in their final seasons to lead the Hoosiers to a 14-13 record overall entering Saturday’s finale.
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Baksa and Mandema each rank first and third, respectively, atop the MPSF conference in terms of goal scoring totals this season.
The match got started in a hurry, as the Sun Devils struck first with a goal by graduate student utility Emily Bennett just 14 seconds into the first quarter. Mandema counted with a goal of her own to tie the match at 1-1.
The Sun Devils took control for the rest of the first quarter, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-1 lead. Senior utility Emma Fraser scored three of those four goals. The opening frame ended on a high note for the Hoosiers, as freshman center Sophie Sollie cut the deficit down to three before the second quarter.
Mandema struck again to begin the second quarter, cutting Indiana’s deficit to just two with her second goal of the day. Indiana and Arizona State traded goals for the entirety of the second quarter. Going into halftime, the Hoosiers trailed 8-5.
The competitiveness carried over into the second half. For nearly 18 minutes of gameplay, neither team was able to knock in consecutive goals. The Hoosiers stopped the streak before the third quarter ended, and they ultimately outscored the Sun Devils 3-1 in that span. Going into the fourth and final quarter, the Hoosiers were in striking distance with a deficit of 9-8.
Baksa finally got on the board in the fourth quarter with her first goal of the day, extending the Sun Devils’ lead to two. The Hoosiers continued to fight, though, and back-to-back goals from Doherty and Mandema tied the match at 10-10 with just over four minutes remaining.
Fraser knocked in her fifth goal of the day to give the lead back to the Sun Devils. Doherty then answered for the Hoosiers, adding to her personal tally with four goals to tie the match again.
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The last goal of the match came from the Sun Devils, as Bennett put in the difference maker and to defeat the Hoosiers 12-11.
Mandema came right behind Doherty on the scoresheet with a hat trick of her own. Askew finished with nine saves on 21 Sun Devil shot attempts.
The Hoosiers fell back to 0.500 with a 14-14 record overall, finishing fifth place out of six teams in the MPSF conference.
Despite an up and down regular season, the Hoosiers will look to play at their best in the postseason.
“The rest of the games we play, I want us to have complete games,” head coach Taylor Dodson said. “All 32 minutes being together, attacking together, defending together and not being afraid.”
Indiana will stay on the West Coast for the next week as the team prepares for the MPSF Championships next weekend in Los Angeles.
“I want us to play fearless in these last couple of weeks,” Dodson said.