By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Long Beach, Calif. – 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.
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.
Cal State Northridge (23-8) 1-3-0-2 = 6
Hawai'i (18-10) 0-3-1-1 = 5
CSUN Goal Scorers: Lindsy Duncan 2, Kelcie Ferreira 1, Molly Henehan 1, Jenny Jamison 1, Katie Kammer 1
Hawai'I Goal Scorers: Emily Carr 2, Mirella Coutinho 2, Paula Chilida Esforzafo 1
CSUN Goalie Saves: Kiernan Davis 11
Hawai'i Goalie Saves: Amy Carlson 5
Matador Memo …
The 23 wins are third-best in school history … The six goals against Hawai'i give CSUN 362 goals for the year, the third-best mark in school history … Lindsy Duncan's two goals gives her 211 career goals, second-best in school history and 11 shy of Allison Brookes' school record (222, 2005-08) … Duncan now has 51 goals this year, second-best on the team … Eleven saves by Kiernan Davis gives her 208 for the season, ninth-best for a single season in school history.
Series Story …
UC Irvine has long been the dominant team in the Big West Conference … The Anteaters have won four of the Big West Tournament championships, but fell 5-4 to Hawai'i in last year's conference championship … The Anteaters hold a 21-3 advantage over CSUN in the series … That includes a 7-6 overtime decision earlier this year (2/23/14) at the UCI Tournament, and a 11-5 decision (4/13/14) over the Matadors at CSUN … UCI has won nine straight games over the Matadors … UC Irvine, the top seed, advanced to the conference championship game with a 5-2 victory over fourth-seeded Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon … Hannah Grogan scored two goals for the Anteaters … UC Irvine is ranked sixth in the nation with a 23-7 record.
The 2014 Big West Conference Women's Water Polo Tournament
Host: Long Beach State University
Friday, April 25
Match 1 – 1:30 pm: #4 Long Beach State (18-10 overall, 2-3 BWC) 12, #5 UC Santa Barbara 7 (11-14 overall, 2-3 BWC)
Match 2 – 3:15 pm: #3 Hawai'I (17-9 overall, 3-2 BWC) 7, #6 UC Davis 6 (12-17 overall, 0-5 BWC)
Saturday, April 26
Match 3 – 1:30 pm - #1 UC Irvine 5 (22-7 overall, 5-0 BWC) 5, vs Long Beach State 2 (19-11 overall, 2-3 BWC)
Match 4 – 3:15 pm - #2 Cal State Northridge 6 (22-8 overall, 3-2 BWC) 6, Hawai'i 5 (18-9 overall, 3-2 BWC) 5
Sunday, April 27
Match 5 – 10:30 am – UC Santa Barbara, 11-15 overall, 2-3 BWC) vs UC Davis, 12-18 overall, 0-5 BWC), Fifth Place
Match 6 – 12:15 pm – Long Beach State (19-11 overall, 2-3 BWC) vs Hawai'i (18-10 overall, 3-2 BWC), Third Place
Match 7 – 2:00 pm – UC Irvine (23-7 overall, 5-0 BWC) vs Cal State Northridge (23-8 overall, 3-2 BWC) - Championship Match