Water polo set to take on UC San Diego for Harper Cup

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Water polo set to take on UC San Diego for Harper Cup

Junior utility player Shelby Kraft looks to pass during the Aztecs' 4-1 victory over Santa Clara on March 28 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

Junior utility player Shelby Kraft looks to pass during the Aztecs' 4-1 victory over Santa Clara on March 28 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

Aaron Tolentino

Junior utility player Shelby Kraft looks to pass during the Aztecs' 4-1 victory over Santa Clara on March 28 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

Aaron Tolentino

Aaron Tolentino

Junior utility player Shelby Kraft looks to pass during the Aztecs' 4-1 victory over Santa Clara on March 28 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

by Breven Honda, Staff Writer

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The rivalry game for San Diego State water polo is here.

The Harper Cup will feature No. 17 SDSU and the No. 14 UC San Diego Tritons on April 20 at 1 p.m. at the Aztec Aquaplex.

SDSU head coach Carin Crawford, who played UCSD water polo during her collegiate career, said this is the beginning of the end of the schedule.

“There is a trophy on the line,” said Crawford, who was coached by Denny Harper, the namesake of the cup. “We feel that even though it is Senior Day, it feels like the start of championship season.”

At the conclusion of the game, Harper will select an MVP.

The Harper Cup will be also be the final regular season game and Senior Day for the Scarlet and Black.

The Aztecs will honor three seniors: Mary Myers, Maura Cantoni and Hannah Carrillo before the game versus the Tritons (17-13, 4-0 Western Water Polo Association).

Crawford said the two captains – Cantoni and Carrillo – have led with a reserved approach, while Myers has led with a more direct approach.

“(Cantoni) is very analytical on her approach to game and (Carrillo) is really important, intellectual leader; she is one of the smartest players to be coached, and great leaders step down to relate to every member on the team, so they’re both excellent in the style that suits them best,” Crawford said. “For the loud, bossy one, that is Mary Myers.”

Carrillo and sophomore driver Karli Canale have a special bond that goes back further than their days at SDSU together. Canale went to La Jolla High School, while Carrillo went to The Bishop’s School only a mile away.

“I’ve known her for a really long time, we grew up playing water polo together and I have always looked up to her as a role model and coming here and being able to play with her again was an awesome experience,” Canale said. “We are really going to miss her because she is a big part of our offense and our team. I can go to her even if it isn’t water polo related.”

The Tritons have kept the cup the past three years, and the Scarlet and Black are looking to bring it back to the Mesa.

“They have the cup, so (we’re) trying to take it back and it is in our pool this year,” Canale said. “I’m so excited.”

Cantoni said she is excited that the team is playing for the Harper Cup, but her focus is on relishing the final moments she, as well as Carrillo and Myers, has left in an Aztec uniform.

“I’m just focusing on enjoying my time here and enjoying my time with the team because it is quickly coming to an end,” Cantoni said. “Myself, and the two other seniors, are thinking the same thing: have fun, win and enjoy our time in the last few weeks.”

Carrillo and Cantoni have been a part of some great teams, including the 2017 team that went to the Final Four. Both captains are using that as advice to their teammates during the last few games.

“That’s definitely our motivation that we want to be at the top,” Cantoni said. “We want to be the number one, top three.”

Crawford said she will have to keep the team focused on the game more than the mood Senior Day offers.

“It’s an emotional day, but then you have an important game to play,” Crawford said. “We try to focus on enjoying the moment, but talking about how much more fun it is to celebrate Senior Day when you win. Not getting too caught up in the emotion of saying goodbye, but take the opportunity to recognize them and talk about how great it’s going to be to win the game and take back the Harper Cup.”

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