Cal to counter ASU offense with ball control

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The Cal women’s water polo team lives and dies with patience and ball control. Arizona State water polo relies on its ability to score numerous goals.

The two conflicting offensive styles will meet this weekend when the Bears travel to Tempe, Ariz. to take on the No. 6 Sun Devils. 

Cal (15-4, 2-0 in MPSF) has already met Arizona State this year, winning 8-5 at the UCI Invitational. The Bears overcame an early deficit with a strong third quarter in which they exhausted the Sun Devil offenders.

Although the Bears shut down Arizona State (15-2, 1-0 in the MPSF), the latter’s offense still ranks first in the league’s total team-scoring category with 208 goals in only 17 games. Although many of those goals came against non-MPSF opponents, the offensive weaponry that the Sun Devils possess is undeniable.

The ASU leaders are seniors Alicia Brightwell and Annabelle Carter. Brightwell has missed two of her team’s games yet ranks first in the MPSF in scoring with 41 goals. Carter ranks eighth with 32 goals in 17 games.

No. 4 Cal (15-4, 2-0 in MPSF) will try to shut down the duo yet will still have to prepare for a handful of other Sun Devil attackers. Out of the top 14 scorers in the MPSF, five are ASU athletes.

“They have a couple of really offensive players and we are doing a lot in practice preparing for them,” said Cal  junior Remington Price.

Two weeks ago, ASU lost to then-No. 9 San Diego State at the UCI Invitational and fell to No. 6 in the rankings. The Sun Devils responded in their MPSF match last weekend against the fifth-ranked Aztecs, drubbing them 12-3 and gaining momentum going into their match against the Bears.

“Coming off of a loss that was a big jump-start for them,” said junior Dana Ochsner. “The fact that Arizona State routed SDSU, we have to go in and be prepared for anything.”

The Bears expect the Sun Devils to come out firing and will try to mediate the latters’ momentum by dictating the pace of the game, something the Bears think will lead to success.

“We are all about ball control,” Price said. “We want to slow down our game and play to our strengths to tire them out.”

Cal coaches have stressed offensive patience throughout the year and have told the athletes to use all 35 seconds of the shot clock. Offensively, the Bears will be perfectly content with controlling the ball to tire out the Sun Devils, taking shots after long possessions.

“You have to establish a deep set and establish your wings,” Ochsner said. “If we do that we can tire them out a little bit before they go back on offense. Ball control does not mean playing slow, it means playing smart.”

Cal’s defense will also play an important role in limiting the stamina of Arizona State swimmers by employing high-intensity pressure and helping each other when a teammate gets beat.

“I can’t just play good defense on one person,” said coach Richard Corso. “I need to play that athlete 90 percent and another athlete 30 percent. It can’t be just individual defense, it has to be team defense.”