Tempe, Arizona - The Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches have announced the 2016 Division I All-America teams, a group that features four members from the Arizona State water polo program – including First-Team selection Ao Gao.
Gao becomes just the third Sun Devil in program history to be named a First Team All-American, joining Alicia Brightwell (2012) and Addison McGrath (2008) on the select list. She is joined on this year’s All-America roster by Second-Team selection Mia Rycraw and Honorable Mention picks Abbey Kerth and Maud Koopman. That trio of Sun Devils all picked up the first All-America nods of their careers.
With Thursday’s release, the Sun Devils have now posted 21 All-America honors under head coach Todd Clapper since the 2011 season after having just 10 total in program history prior to the current streak. At no point since 2011 has ASU posted fewer than three All-Americans, with this year’s four selections tying the 2013 and 2014 squads for the school record for the most in a single season.
Ao Gao finishes her illustrious career as one of the most decorated Sun Devils in history, becoming just the fourth player in program lore to become a three-time All-American and the first Sun Devil to be named either a first or second team selection each of those times.
Gao, a senior defender and two-time Olympian, finished her career with 131 career goals, good for eighth in the Sun Devil record books. She added 100 career assists, becoming just the fourth player in program history to reach the milestone and bringing her career total points to 231 – the fifth-highest total in ASU history.
The Beijing native added 131 career steals, good for sixth all-time at ASU. She joined Ashley Bower (2004-07) as the only other member of the 100-100-100 club, finishing their careers with over 100 goals, assists and steals.
Not all of Gao’s contributions show up on the stat sheet, however, as her true claim to fame comes as being the lockdown defender in the pool, typically matched up against opposing team centers or top offensive threats. She also ran the “point guard” position for the Sun Devils on the other end of the pool and helped keep the offense in motion.
Gao finished the 2016 season with 29 goals and 18 assists for 48 total points – the third-highest total on the team – while her 35 steals were also good for third on the team as well.
In her first season as the team’s day-to-day starting goalkeeper, Mia Rycraw took the MPSF and NCAA by storm. The sophomore out of Walnut, Calif., stopped 318 shots on the season as she led the conference in saves and posted the third-best single season total in ASU history.
At the NCAA Tournament, Rycraw stopped 48 shots in three games (16.0 per game) and set a personal record with 20 saves in the team’s fifth-place victory. The 48 shots and 20 saves were each good for the second-best total in NCAA Tournament history and she earned All-Tournament honors as a result. Rycraw finished the season with double-digit saves in her final six games of the year.
Stopping a tick over 12 shots per game, Rycraw was a pivotal part of an ASU defense that allowed just 5.31 goals per game – a new school record and the third-lowest total in the ever-competitive MPSF Conference. The Sun Devils allowed double-digit goals just twice in 2016, also a program low and three games fewer than the previous school record.
The sophomore’s instinct not only helped her always find her way to be in the right spot at the right time to stop shots, but she also finished second on the team with 37 steals on the year.
Not all centers are going to pad the stat sheet, and senior Abbey Kerth was no exception this year. But her pure dominance in the middle of the pool garnered her more than enough attention from the coaches and that recognition helped garner her the first All-America honor of her career.
Kerth, who frequently drew the attention of double and sometimes triple teams, finished the year drawing a team-leading 73 exclusions – nearly 50 more than any other Sun Devil on the roster. She did so despite playing the most physical position in the pool and battling through nagging injuries through the season.
The team captain this year, Kerth added a career-best 25 goals and seven assists for 32 total points. Kerth found the back of the net on 54 percent of her shot attempts – easily the highest percentage on the team at a position where it’s not always easy to get shots off.
Kerth’s efforts throughout the season also earned her All-MPSF recognition as well.
Maud Koopman was the freshman sensation that carried the Sun Devil offense throughout the year. The youngster out of the Netherlands led the team in just about every major statistical category including goals (39), assists (38), points (77) and steals (39).
Koopman’s 77 points were 27 more than any Sun Devil on the team and a testament to her versatility. The freshman crushed the ASU school freshman record for assists, nine more than Ashley Bower’s 2008 total of 29. She also came just shy of Rowie Webster’s long-standing school freshman record for points of 82 while her goal and steal totals were good for fifth and sixth all-time among ASU freshmen, respectively.
Koopman had four or more assists in three of her final eight games and those three games already put her in a tie for second all-time at ASU for most games in a career with four or more assists in a contest.
The Dutch attacker was named to the MPSF All-Newcomer team and became just the third ASU freshman to be named an All-American, joining Alkistis Benekou (2014) and Rowie Webster (2006).
The efforts of these four players helped the Sun Devils reach 20 wins for just the third time in program history while matching the program’s highest finish at the NCAA Tournament in fifth place. Under this year class, Todd Clapper reached his 300th career win as a head coach.
Arizona State Water Polo All-Americans
2016 • Ao Gao (1st), Mia Rycraw (2nd), Abbey Kerth (HM), Maud Koopman (HM)
2015 • Izabella Chiappini (3rd), Alkistis Benekou (HM), E.B. Keeve (HM)
2014 • Ao Gao (2nd), E.B. Keeve (3rd), Alkistis Benekou (HM), Petra Pardi (HM)
2013 • Alicia Brightwell (2nd), Ao Gao (2nd), Shannon Haas (3rd), E.B. Keeve (HM)
2012 • Alicia Brightwell (1st), Shannon Haas (3rd), Mariam Salloum (HM)
2011 • Sarah Harris (HM), Mariam Salloum (HM), Lynlee Smith (HM)
2010 • Sarah Harris (HM), Lynlee Smith (HM)
2009 • Addison McGrath (2nd), Lynlee Smith (HM)
2008 • Addison McGrath (1st) Kelly Phelps (HM), Caylinn Wallace (HM)
2007 • Addison McGrath (HM)
2006 • Rowie Webster (3rd)
2004 • Katie Davis (HM)
All-Time All-American Roster
Benekou, Alkistis • 2014 (HM), 2015 (HM)
Brightwell, Alicia • 2012 (1st), 2013 (2nd)
Chiappini, Izabella • 2015 (3rd)
Davis, Katie • 2004 (HM)
Gao, Ao • 2013 (2nd), 2014 (2nd), 2016 (1st)
Haas, Shannon • 2012 (3rd), 2013 (3rd)
Harris, Sarah • 2010 (HM), 2011 (HM)
Keeve, E.B. • 2013 (HM), 2014 (3rd), 2015 (HM)
Kerth, Abbey • 2016 (HM)
Koopman, Maud • 2016 (HM)
McGrath, Addison • 2007 (HM), 2008 (1st), 2009 (2nd)
Pardi, Petra • 2014 (HM)
Phelps, Kelly • 2008 (HM)
Rycraw, Mia • 2016 (2nd)
Salloum, Mariam • 2011 (HM), 2012 (HM)
Smith, Lynlee • 2009 (HM), 2010 (HM), 2011 (HM)
Wallace, Caylinn • 2008 (HM)
Webster, Rowie • 2006 (3rd)
All-Time All-America Teams
First Team Selections
Gao, Ao • 2016
Brightwell, Alicia • 2012
McGrath, Addison • 2008
Second Team Selections
Rycraw, Mia • 2016
Gao, Ao • 2013, 2014
Brightwell, Alicia • 2013
McGrath, Addison • 2009
Third Team Selections
Chiappini, Izabella • 2015
Keeve, E.B. • 2014
Haas, Shannon • 2012, 2013
Webster, Rowie • 2006
Honorable Mention Selections
Kerth, Abbey • 2016
Koopman, Maud • 2016
Keeve, E.B. • 2013, 2015
Benekou, Alkistis • 2014, 2015
Pardi, Petra • 2014
Salloum, Mariam • 2011, 2012
Harris, Sarah • 2010, 2011
Smith, Lynlee • 2009, 2010, 2011
Phelps, Kelly • 2008
Wallace, Caylinn • 2008
McGrath, Addison • 2007
Davis, Katie • 2004