The Long Beach State women’s water polo team returns to the pool this season to kick off the year with its highest ranking to open a season since 2006.
The 49ers are ranked 11th by the Collegiate Water Polo Association in the preseason poll.
It is a much-anticipated season for LBSU after the team went 25-7 last year, finishing third in the Big West Tournament.
A strong 2013 campaign has raised the bar for LBSU, and 49ers coach Gavin Arroyo is eager to see his team live up to the heightened expectations.
“They’re elevated,” he said of the team’s expectations. “Last year was a ‘get back on track’ year. Now we have to maintain that or improve on it.”
The 49ers will try to build on their recent success. Six seniors have returned for The Beach, including goalkeeper Kelly Ringel. Ringel’s 274 saves last year were the second-highest save total for a 49er in a single season.
The Beach is hoping to see continued production from Chelsea Parks and Coriann Snyder in the coming year. Parks scored 60 goals to lead LBSU last season, and Snyder ranked third on the team with 39 tallies.
Arroyo said the experience and leadership of the aforementioned senior trio is invaluable to his squad.
“I think that confidence plays a big role for them,” he said. “They’ve been through it all. They are pretty comfortable in their own skin.”
The 2014 schedule will begin with a pair of games against ranked teams Saturday in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. LBSU will face No. 4 California before squaring off with No. 20 Pacific.
LBSU will be tested early, but the 49ers are hoping to peak as they enter their conference schedule. Despite the loss of San Diego State and Pacific, the Big West remains strong with each team holding a spot inside the CWPA top 20.
“We’re going to be tough no matter what comes our way,” said Arroyo of the team’s tough schedule. “It’s us against the world. It’s a Dirtbag mentality. It’s a Long Beach State mentality.”