The San Jose State University women's water polo team, with its top five scorers returning, opens its new season with a pair of exhibition contests, January 8 & 9, vs. the People's Republic of China touring team.
Both matches at The Aquatics Center on the San Jose State campus start at 2:00 p.m. The January 9 exhibition will be streamed live on www.sjsuspartans.com. There is no admission charge and paid parking is available one block away at the campus' Seventh Street garage.
"I think this team is capable of scoring more than 400 goals. All of them are about each other. They're taking care of each other. I feel our defense is going to be the one that wins games for us."
The Spartans posted a 20-13 win-loss record and finished seventh nationally in the final coaches poll. San José State scored a single-season, school-record 393 goals in 2014 surpassing its previous team season scoring record of 377 in 2009.
Sophomore Clara Espar Llaquet, the leading goal scorer in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) a year with 96 goals, junior Rae Lekness (76), senior and co-captain Timi Molnar (50), senior Victoria Smith (45) and junior Bianca Seyfert (31) led San José State in scoring last year.
The Spartans will rely on sophomore Katelynn Thompson (Penryn, Calif.) anchoring the defense from her goalkeeper position. Thompson ranked fourth in the MPSF in goals against average as a freshman in 2014.
The People's Republic of China team is ranked #2 in the FINA World Water Polo rankings after finishing fourth in 2014 World League Tournament. Goalkeeper Yang Jun and field player Liu Ping are two-time Olympians for the Chinese team. Field players Song Dunlun and Zhang Lei joined Jun and Ping for the 2012 Olympics in London.
"We have pretty much the same team as last year. We had all fall semester to work together. We get to play China. That is really fortunate for us, because this is one of the top teams. By playing this team, it will be a big wake-up call," says Smith, a three-year starter for the Spartans who believes the team's ultimate goal is a berth in the 10-team NCAA Championship in May.
The Chinese team also has a match at UC Davis on January 12 and is one of the 11 teams entered in the LouStrong Memorial Tournament, January 16-18, hosted by San José State. The Spartans' regular season starts on January 16 with matches against Sonoma State and Cal State East Bay in the tournament named after former head coach Lou Tully who passed away in December 2013 at age 70.