The Colorado St. Rams are in their final weekend of Western Water Polo play before the conference tournament begins in two weeks and are playing five games with four being league contests. Of the four conference games Colorado State plays this weekend, California State Easy Bay is the toughest game this weekend outside of playing No. 8 ranked San Jose St. Spartans.
With this being the final games before the conference tournament, seeding is on the line for the WWPA tournament. As of now Colorado State is No. 8 with only a better record than Cal State San Bernardino, however Colorado State can move up a spot or two as they play Sonoma State who is 3-8 in league play and Cal State Monterey Bay who is 4-5. Neither of those teams are head and shoulders above Colorado State, so they have a chance to move up.
Friday April 13
Colorado State at Cal State Monterey Bay 7 p.m. MT
This is a key game to get the weekend going right for Colorado State. Cal Sate Monterey Bay is 4-5 in league play and 11-10 overall, but a win would provide a chance for Colorado State to avoid playing LMU or Cal State Bakersfield in the opening round of the WWPA conference tournament in two weeks. Monterey Bay is led by Senior Nikki Smart who had eight goals this past weekend and leads the team with 76 goals. Smart is their two-meter player and has drawn 46 ejections and is a defensive presence with 32 steals, both team highs.
The other scoring threat is Katie Sowul who has 62 goals on the year, and after that the next leading scorer comes in at 23. So, if Colorado State can slow down Sowul and Smart then they have a chance to get a win. The goalie situation for Monterey Bay is split among Paige Robinson and Amanda Johnson who have had varying success. Robinson is the primary goal tender and has started 14 games and played in 21 of them, while Johnson has only six starts but has played in 21 games. As a team Monterey Bay has allowed 10.04 goals per game.
Colorado State will need to get their offense going since Monterey Bay allows double-digit goals per game and if Kallie Berry and Caroline Young can get on the scoreboard early the Colorado State should be able to be in good shape to get the win. The second half is when Colorado State can struggle, so if they can get out to at least a three goal lead at the half then they stand a good chance. Colorado State will need their defense to show up, because they are give up 10 goals per game as well, so they will need their goalie to step up. The field players defense is strong for Colorado State as they average over 10 steals and two field blocks per game. Basically if Colorado State wants tow in they will need to build at least a two goal lead at the half and have their goalie play an above average game.
Saturday April 14
Colorado State at Santa Clara, 3:15 p.m. MT
Santa Clara is 5-7 in WWPA league play and this would be a nice upset if Colorado State can get the win. On offense Santa Clara is a balanced team that has four players with over 20 goals with Marina Allen leading the way with 37 goals.
One thing that Santa Clara does extremely well is to draw ejections. Laura Espinosa has drawn 65 ejections which is at 2.3 per game, and that includes drawing nine penalty shots. As a team they average 8.32 ejections per game, so Colorado State will need to keep their major players from getting into foul trouble.
Colorado State vs. Sonoma State, 7 p.m. MT
This game provides yet another opportunity for Colorado State to move up the WWPA standings as Sonoma State is 3-8 on the year. They are a lower scoring team and average only seven goals per game, but that is on par with Colorado State who averages 7.9 per game.
Expect this game to be a close matchup, and look for the winner to be the team who has an explosive quarter. Sonoma's game plan is to keep the offense moving and draw ejections to gain an advantage, so Colorado State needs to play smart defense and let their drivers go by and play help defense and not allow to get an ejection.
Sunday April 15
Colorado State vs. No. 8 San Jose State, 11 a.m. MT
This is the only non-WWPA game, but it continues the stretch of Colorado State playing a top-10 schedule. Last week San Jose State had two heartbreaking loses to No. 4 Arizona State and No. 3 USC. So this game for Colorado State will not be easy, however San Jose State has been an up and down team so if Colorado State can catch them on a bad day they could make this a close game.
As for getting a win it is not likely as San Jose State is a very good defensive team and could shut down the Colorado State offense. However, the scoring attack for San Jose State is not overly impressive as they average , but that could be due to them playing in the MPSF which is just the toughest league.
Colorado State vs. Cal State East Bay, 4 p.m. MT
This is the toughest league game of the weekend as Cal State East Bay is second in the WWPA with a conference record of 7-4. This game means much more for Colorado State than it does for Cal State East Bay, since right now the lowest Cal State East Bay could drop is to the No. 3 spot while Colorado State can possibly move up a few spots before the conference tournament.
Cal State East Bay typically plays close games as they have done all year with the exception of a few games when they played LMU where they were crushed 20-3 and then had blowout wins over Fresno Pacific, Azusa Pacific and La Verne.
So, there stands a chance this game will be decided by at most four goals. Leading the way for Cal State East Bay is Claire Pierce who leads the 61 goals and averages 2.37 ejections per game and there is also Erica Crain who has 43 goals, 31 assists and 50 steals. Crain is also a much more accurate shooter at 40 percent compared to Pierce who connects on only 27 percent of her shots.
Goalie Jayme Pekarske blocks an average of 10 shots per game and only a 7.37 goal against average per game. Colorado State will have to make sure their shots count if they are going to have a chance to pull off this upset.
For more on Colorado State sports go check out Mountain West Connection, and go visit The Skip Shot for more water polo news.