LOS ANGELES -- Arizona State picked up its first NCAA postseason victory on Saturday, riding the impervious goalkeeping of E.B. Keeve and some hot shooting in the second half to a 13-9 victory against Indiana in the consolation bracket of the 2014 NCAA Water Polo tournament.
With the victory, the fifth-seeded Sun Devils advanced to the fifth-place game against sixth-seeded UC Irvine at 4:45 ET Sunday.Keeve set a school record for a regulation game with 20 saves in the contest, second to only her overall school record of 23 set against UC Irvine in sudden victory earlier this season. The sophomore was a brick wall in the cage, making several pivotal stops on breakaways and powerplays that kept Indiana within ASU’s sights, even when the Sun Devil offense was struggling.
“I know I could have gotten more because I know some of the shots I definitely was responsible for,” Keeve said of her performance. “That’s what makes people better. You realize your mistakes and you just work on it and hopefully, I’ll be able to get more next time.”
The Hoosiers (22-7 overall) provided a stiff test for the Sun Devils (16-11 overall), using relentless offensive pressure and forcing Keeve to face over 30 shots in the contest.
“I think it’s always tough when you want to advance and you lose that first game to have the energy to come back the next day,” ASU head coach Todd Clapper said after the game. “I think we started off pretty slow and weren’t really gelling as a group and the intensity was a little lower than it should have been, but I’m proud of the team there in the fourth quarter to have stepped up, put things together, and come away with the win.”
The turning point of the game came with 3:03 left in the third quarter as Indiana took a 7-6 lead on the powerplay after Keeve made two point blank saves but couldn’t get in front of the third shot. The play seemed to light a fire under the Sun Devils, who closed out the quarter with four consecutive goals in the final 2:42 as Kate Enoka immediately evened things up on the following possession.
ASU then scored the next five goals in the game, taking a 12-7 lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Alkistis Benekou’s third goal of the game. Indiana would score back-to-back goals to climb back within 12-9 with 2:44 remaining but Petra Pardi provided the dagger for ASU with a laser from the elbow with 1:16 left in the game to give the Sun Devil’s their final marging of victory at 13-9.
The Sun Devils were able to overcome a sluggish first half, which saw the offense only muster five goals while being forced into an unusual amount of turnovers as the team seemed to lack energy following yesterday’s tough loss to Cal in the tournament opener.
It was the impermeable goalkeeping of Keeve and the wise shot decisions of Izabella Chiappini that kept the Hoosiers from taking over the game when it appeared the momentum was going their way.
Chiappini scored two of her team-high four goals in the second quarter on a pair of beautiful off-speed lob shots. Chiappini, who had just one shot against Cal on Friday, took five on Saturday and found paydirt on four of them and added two assists for good measure.
“Yesterday, I wasn’t confident in my shot because in the warm-up, I was doing horrible and I got kind of scared,” Chiappini, a freshman, said after the game. “[Saturday], I felt more confident because all the girls talked to me before the game and I was feeling more comfortable.”
Indiana took its first lead of the game at 6-5 with 6:05 left in the third quarter but it was Chiappini who answered with a penalty shot goal just a minute later.
The next goal sparked ASU offensive, which finished the half with eight goals and improved to 14-2 on the season when scoring 10 or more goals.
The Sun Devils will look to finish the season on a high note Sunday against the Anteaters of UC Irvine. The two teams have faced off twice this season and split those two matches.