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2012 UC Irvine Invitational: Previewing The First Round Schedule

The 2012 UC-Irvine Invitational is the premier event in women's water polo, and is likely the toughest field outside of the MPSF conference tournament.

Here is the schedule for the opening round games (all times are pacific):

Game 1: No. 1 Stanford Cardinal vs. No. 17 UC San Diego Tritons 9 a.m.

Stanford is coming in looking to defend their 2011 title here at the 2011 UCI Invitational. On the year Stanford is 8-0 on the year. Stanford's offense is averaging 13.50 goals per game and their defense is giving up 5.25 goal per game. They are No. 1 in the nation for a reason and the offense is paced by freshman Kiley Neushul who has scored 15 goals on the year followed by Ashley Grossman who has 14 goals, Alyssa Lo has 12 and Kaitlyn Lo has 11 goals on the season.

UC San Diego has a decent defense that is allowing less than 10 goals per game, but odds that they take out the top ranked Cardinal.

Game 2: No. 8 San Diego St. Aztecs vs. No. 9 San Jose St. Spartans 10:15 a.m.

San Diego State is coming off a 9-4 loss to UCLA in their opener in MPSF play and have only two loses on the year. The player to watch for San Diego State is 2011 All-American Meaghan Poland who leads the team with 28 goals, has 16 steals and drawing a team-high 23 ejections. San Diego State also feature two other All-Americans from last year with utility player Amber Pezzolla and goalie Kelly Campoli.

San Jose State while ranked in the top-10 is in a slump and has lost four in a row while only scoring 21 goals during that stretch. To put some perspective for those four games, San Jose State played No. 1 ranked Stanford twice, No. 6 ranked Hawai'i and No. 4 ranked Cal. The player to watch for San Jose State is Dani Curran who is leading the team with 17 goals.

Game 3: No. 4 California Golden Bears vs. No. No. 15 UC Santa Barbra Gauchos 11:30 a.m.

Cal is 12-2 on the year with loses to only USC and UCLA, and they have already beat UCSB earlier this year 11-7. Breda Vosters is leading Cal in scoring with 25 goals in only 12 games and goalie Lindsay Dorst is allowing 5.84 goals per game. UCSB will need to have a great offensive effort if they want to get past Cal, and it all starts with Bryce Winton who has scored 22 goals this year, and then there is Shelby Haroldson who has 27 assists and 23 steals so far on the year.

Game 4: No. 5 Arizona St. Sun Devils vs. No. 14 UC Davis Aggies 12:45 p.m.

Arizona State is undefeated heading into the tournament, but they have not been challenge all that much as they have played only two ranked teams on the year in 12 games. The strength of Arizona State is their defense which has given up 68 goals in 12 games thus far. Their offense is not to bad either and their team is deep as 12 players have scored goals so far this year.

UC Davis had a tough time at the Stanford Invite where they went 0-4, but they have turned it around and have one their last two games against Sonama State and Cal Baptist. Head coach Jamey Wright talks about this weekend:

"This is not any different than the Stanford Invitational weekend except we have five games instead of four. We're going to play five good teams. We beat Santa Barbara the first weekend but you know they've gotten better. One thing we need to get a handle on is finishing our games. It's one thing to play well enough to win, and another to actually win it. It's a real mindset and a real skill. This weekend should give us some opportunities to do that, and if you look at our conference schedule, that's what it will look like. If you look at the last three years, there were not very many blowouts. They're usually one- or two-goal games. Here are five opportunities to learn how to finish games."

Game 5: No. 2 USC Trojans vs. No. 20 Long Beach St. 49ers 9 a.m.

USC has only lost one game this year and that was a 8-7 loss to No. 1 ranked Stanford three weeks ago and since then has been dominant. Their closest game was a 10-5 win over Cal and a 12-6 over Hawai'i, but the other games were blowouts. Kaleigh Gilchris leads the team in scoring with 15 goals, but the scoring is so spread out with five other players who have nine goals each.

Long Beach State has had some bad luck this year as three of their losses have come by just a single goal this year and they have outscored their opponents, but they have a losing record.

Game 6: No. 7 UC Irvine Anteaters vs. No. 10 Loyola Marymount Lions 10:15 a.m.

LMU can not get a scheduling break this year. They have lost four games in a row all against top-10 teams, and they just played Irvine and lost 12-9. In the prior matchup the game was close throughout until Irvine scored three straight goals in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win. This should be a close matchup and with this game at home for Irvine there might be a different result.

Game 7: No. 3 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 17 Cal. St.-Northridge Matadors 11:30 a.m.

Cal State Northridge has lost three in a row, but has had two weeks off to prepare for UCLA. The 3-8 record for Cal State Northridge is misleading, because they have been in most of the games they played this year with five games being decided by three goals or less. The majority of the scoring is done by three players in Marisa Young who has 19 goals, Jenny Jamison who has 18 and Lindsy Nelson who has 11. If those players are shutdown then UCLA should not have a problem.

With UCLA being the No. 2 in the country they should easily get bast Cal State Northridge, but they should not just look past this opponent. UCLA is 8-1 on the year with their only loss coming against Stanford 9-5. Defense is how UCLA beats teams and they are allowing only just over five goals per game, and the most goals they have given up is the nine to Stanford.

Game 8: No. 6 Hawaii Warriors vs. No. 12 Michigan Wolverines 12:45 p.m.

Michigan has been off the past two weeks as they prepare to go against Hawai'i in the opening round of the UC Irvine Invitational, and is hoping to improve off of their 4-5 record. All-time Michigan is 1-10 against Hawai'i. These two teams played in the Stanford Invite where Hawai'i won a close game 7-5.

Round two will also take place on Saturday, but the teams will not be decided until the results are known from the first round.

Game 9: W1 vs. W2

Game 10: L1 vs. L2

Game 11: W3 vs. W4

Game 12: L3 vs. L4

Game 13: W5 vs. W6

Game 14: L5 vs. L6

Game 15: W7 vs. W8

Game 16: L7 vs. L8

Make sure to check back with updates of the bracket and scores.

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