ASU’s water polo team starts the season in deep water

The ASU women’s water polo team is catching a wave of big expectations again this year.  This is the second year in a row that the Sun Devil squad enters the season ranked No. 8 nationally.

And,  judging by the remainder of the Top 10 announced by the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA), it’s going to be a battle royale in the Pac-10 this year.  Stanford, USC, and UCLA are occupying the top three spots in the rankings.

The Devils are coming off a 13-15 season last year and an eighth-place showing in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.  They ended the 2009 season ranked No. 10 in the CWPA poll.

Last year, they played 22 of 28 games against ranked opponents.  They open the 2010 season with three games against nationally-ranked teams.

On the plus side, the Devils will have their top scorer returning this season.  Lynlee Smith, a junior, is coming off her first year with the program, in which she scored a team-high 65 goals.

Smith is also one of four ASU players that competed for their national teams at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, Italy.  She and teammate Dana Harvey competed for New Zealand.  Mariam Salloum participated for Germany and Sarah Harris was the leading scorer for the South African team.

The season opener is Jan. 30 when the Devils take on two teams on the same day.  They travel to California to take on No. 17 CS Bakersfield in the morning and then No. 16 Long Beach State in an afternoon match.