Nationally ranked women’s water polo starts year with high expectations


Photo by Elissa Tauscher

Freshman defender Lucia Carballo prepares for a shot during the Aztecs 8-7 loss to the Alumni on Jan. 27.

by Kyle Betz, Staff Writer

San Diego State women’s water polo amped up its preparation for the regular season with a practice match against the Aztec Alumni at the Aztec Aquaplex on Jan. 27.

The Alumni pulled off a slim 8-7 victory, but if the No. 12 ranked Aztecs can live up to their ranking, losing will be a rarity this year.

Under head coach Carin Crawford, who is entering her 20th year at the helm, the team has never finished a season ranked lower than 17th in the country.

Crawford said she is expecting her seniors to play a large role as the team aims for a fifth straight Golden Coast Conference Championship.

“I think our seniors are well positioned to have a breakout season,” Crawford said. “Courtney Jarvis, Lizzy Bilz, and Malia Magro have each played some sort of a reserve role, and I see these glue players giving us stability and experience.”

Crawford admits that with only four returning seniors her team is young, but said that experience and guidance from older players will make up for their overall youth.

“We have a young team, but we have already decided that we have enough experience and senior leadership that we are pushing to continue our string of conference championships,” she said.

Senior utility player Lizzy Bilz, who was named co-captain with junior driver Hannah Carrillo, said that her leadership will have a big impact on her teammates.

“I’ll definitely have a leadership role as a captain and share a leadership effort in the pool with (Carrillo) as the only two returning starters,” Bilz said.

Bilz said that one way to share her experience with her teammates is to lead by example.

“It’s important to set a good example for the younger girls on our team. We have a lot of new freshmen and one transfer, so I’m going to lead by example and always try hard,” she said.

Even with an inexperienced roster, Crawford expects her younger players to actively contribute.

“Freshman Emily Bennett is left-handed and is going to be making a lot of waves. She can set and defend — she’s a very good defensive player,” Crawford said. “She’s someone I see factoring into a lot of our offense, and being left-handed she’s really hard to defend.”

Crawford also expects freshmen driver’s Karli Canale and  Lindsy Peterson to heavily influence the Aztecs transitional play with sophomore driver Maddy Parenteau.

“We’ve got a couple of freshmen and a sophomore that bring speed, counter-attacking abilities, and shooting — that is, Canale, Peterson, and Parenteau,” Crawford said. “I really see them pushing the tempo and giving us opportunities in transition.”

In the net, the Aztecs will rely on two goalkeepers — junior Maura Cantoni and redshirt junior Emily Lowell.

“We have two new goalies who are inexperienced, but by what they’ve shown us… they were really solid,” Crawford said. “I’m pretty optimistic that we will have good goalkeeping from both Cantoni and Lowell.”

Crawford emphasizes to her players that playing with a defensive mindset will lead to counter-attack opportunities.

“Our philosophy always centers around defense first. We want our offense to generate at the defensive end, which gives us long swims and those transition opportunities,” Crawford said. “Even if they don’t lead to a scoring opportunity, they wear down our opponents over time.”

Carrillo has high expectations for the upcoming season, and believes that her team will be nothing short of successful.

“I’ve definitely set the goal of winning conference. We lost it last year and it was tough, so we just need to figure out the new pieces we have,” Carrillo said. “We also want to make NCAAs this year.”

Carrillo said that youth won’t limit her team’s ability to win games in 2018.

“We’ve been able to prove to ourselves that, although we are young and we don’t have the other four starters we used to have, it’s not a big issue for us,” she said. “We have girls that are super fast and very good individually, so just figuring out how to play together and use our talents for the greater good of the team is really important. As for now, we’re doing really well.”

SDSU will kick off its regular season next Saturday against No. 19 Harvard University and No. 20 Wagner College at the Bruno Classic in Providence, Rhode Island.