UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge Clinch Spots in Sunday's Title Match
Anteaters Will Appear In Their Sixth-Straight Title Match Sunday
The top-seeded Anteaters emerged from a heavyweight rivalry bout with the 5-2 victory over Long Beach State at their home pool Saturday afternoon.
UC Irvine (23-7, 5-0) started slow finishing the first period scoreless, unable to capitalize on four power plays including a 6-on-4 advantage, while Long Beach State (19-11) held the early advantage off a goal from Jessica Brooks late in the period.
The 'Eaters would not convert until its 15th shot of the match as Emily Carlson slung a shot short-side to tie the match up 1-1 with 1:41 to go in the half.
The team's came out of the half tied at that mark before Hannah Croghan buried a shot a minute in to give the 'Eaters their first lead.
The 49ers responded after a double exclusion on Jessy Cardey of UCI and Chelsea Parks of LBSU to turn it into a 5-on-5 possession. A McKenna Mitchell-exclusion gave LBSU the rare 5-on-4 power play that Hillary Veselik would put home to tie the match late in the period.
Cambria Shockley skipped the Anteaters back in front on the following possession, UCI's lone power play goal on the afternoon in 11 chances, for a 3-2 lead that UC Irvine would take into the final period.
A pivotal moment in the match happened with 7:08 to go. Hillary Estrada was excluded for the third time in the match, and also gave the 49ers a penalty try to tie the match. Coriann Snyder, a 49er senior that torched UCI for five of their seven goals just a week ago, stepped up for what ultimately was her only shot of the entire match. Her five-meter strike smacked the right post and went wide to keep the match at 3-2.
The fourth quarter drove forward until Hannah Croghan made a stellar steal to prompt a breakaway which she would also finish giving the 'Eaters a two-goal advantage with just 2:34 to go.
Jessy Cardey would secure the victory with a changeup-goal cross-cage on her seventh shot of the match in the final minutes putting UCI up for good, 5-2.
Croghan was the lone participant to score twice giving her 40 on the season. She also had an impressive defensive match earning two exclusions, swiping three steals, all in the final quarter, and knocking down four field blocks.
Danielle Warde recorded a pair of field blocks, as well. Jessy Cardey added a pair of assists along with her goal and stole three passes. The goal for Cardey was her 50th of the season, her third 50-goal season in her career.
Jillian Yocum stopped four shots on the afternoon, and was instrumental in the defense killing off all seven 6-on-5 advantages for Long Beach State. Yocum's counterpart, Kelly Ringel, stopped seven shots.
The 'Eater win marked the fourth season it has reached 23 wins and cemented a spot in its sixth consecutive Big West Tournament final. UCI will meet No. 2-seed Cal State Northridge in the final that takes place Sun. Apr. 27 at 2:00 p.m. in Long Beach. UCI and CSUN met twice in the regular season with the 'Eaters winning by one in overtime in the UC Irvine Invitational and later taking the conference matchup, 11-5, in Northridge.
Cal State Northridge Advances To Finals In Search Of First Tournament Title
There are big games, and then there are BIG, BIG games.
Cal State Northridge is just one win away from reaching its first trip to the NCAA Tournament, but standing in its way is their chief rival, UC Irvine.
The two teams will collide for a third time this season in the championship game of the 2014 Big West Conference Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Long Beach State's Campus Pool.
Game time is 2:00 pm.
"I expect a very physical game," said Dr. Marcelo Leonardi, CSUN's head coach. "Both teams know what is on the line … a trip to the NCAA Tournament. We want to win but we know that we have to play high-level water polo. UCI has three major components to their success. They are fundamentally sound. They are well coached. They are experienced. They have been to the conference tournament finals (all six years of the Big West Conference Tournament)."
In the 13-year history of the Cal State Northridge women's water polo program, the Matadors have never reached the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, the Matadors had their first opportunity to reach the national tournament, but UC Irvine blocked CSUN's opportunity with a 12-11 victory in the championship of the Big West Tournament.
Fast forward to 2014 where CSUN has again produced one of its strongest teams in school history. One of their pre-season goals was to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Cal State Northridge, ranked eleventh nationally, reached the 2014 conference championship game with a hard-earned 6-5 victory over eighth-ranked Hawai'i on Saturday afternoon. The Matadors never trailed in the game although on two occasions the game was tied.
"Our defense was on target today (UH was held to 1-for-8 on 6-on-5 situations)," said Dr. Leonardi. "They just couldn't score on their power plays. As a whole, I thought we controlled the tempo of the game."
Defense prevailed in the first period. Jenny Jamison earned a penalty shot goal past the Hawai'i goaltender to give the Matadors a 1-0 advantage at the 5:34 mark. Kelcie Ferreira advanced CSUN's lead to 2-0 early in the second period (7:40) but UH's Emily Carr countered with two goals at the 7:23 and 5:00 marks to tie the game at 2-2.
Back came CSUN with goals by Lindsy Duncan and Katie Kammer at 4:45 and 2:52 to again give the second-seeded Matadors a two goal advantage at 4-2.
Hawai'i wouldn't fold. Mirella Coutinho's goal before the halftime intermission cut the Matadors lead to 4-3.
Defense again took center stage in the third period. Paula Chilida Esforzado, UH's leading scorer, scored at the 7:11 mark to tie the game at 4-4. That was the only goal of the third period.
Duncan scored her second goal of the game to give the Matadors a 6-5 advantage with 5:56 to play. Molly Henehan scored what proved to the winning goal with 3:45 to play. A late goal by Coutinho cut the final margin to one goal.
Final Score – Cal State Northridge 6, Hawai'i 5.