San Diego State water polo enters the month of March facing a tough slate of 14 games, including three days of back-to-back games and five Golden Coast Conference matchups.
Despite beginning the season with a 4-7 record, SDSU is ranked No. 22 in the country by the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
Head coach Carin Crawford said the packed schedule will keep the Aztecs focused.
“It helps to avoid that midweek slippage of focus and intensity when we just don’t have the time to have any sort of lapse of concentration in practice,” Crawford said.
The Aztecs competed in the Rainbow Invitational, Triton Invitational and the Barbara Kalbus Invitational to begin the season, also playing against former Aztec alumni and the University of Toronto in exhibition games.
SDSU’s only win over a ranked opponent this season came in its last game of the Barbara Kalbus Invitational against then-No. 21 CS Northridge, when the Aztecs won by a score of 11-4.
The Aztecs, however, fell to No. 1 Southern California in its first game of the invitational, losing 13-5.
Senior driver Hannah Carrillo, who is co-captain of SDSU alongside senior goalkeeper Maura Cantoni, said the high level of competition prepares the Aztecs for the rest of the season.
“After you play USC… you’ve already seen the best, so you can’t really do any worse than you did against them,” Carrillo said. “It prepares you and shows you what other teams can do.”
Carrillo leads the Aztecs with 15 goals and 13 assists in 11 games this season.
Sophomore utility player Emily Bennett, who leads SDSU in steals with 33, said playing in early-season invitationals allows underclassmen to develop and contribute in the long run.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Bennett said. “We don’t have a lot of experience considering this is college play, but the fact that we’re continuing to sub six for six is getting everyone experience, and we’re going to be a better team in the long run for it.”
SDSU will start the month at home against Villanova on March 6 before hosting the Aztec Invitational on March 8 and 9. The Aztec Invitational includes one conference game against Azusa Pacific.
Between March 16 and 28, the Aztecs will face four more conference opponents: Concordia University Irvine, Loyola Marymount, California Baptist and Santa Clara.
Crawford said the Aztecs are setting their sights on winning GCC matchups.
“The focus is the conference games,” Crawford said. “We’ve only lost two conference regular season games in the history of our league.”
SDSU seeks a trip to the GCC championship game for the fourth time in six years.
To get there, though, Crawford said the Aztecs must improve, but she sees potential in the team.
“The first part of the season has really taught us that we’re not where we want to be, but we can see the potential and we know we can get there,” Crawford said.