January 30, 2008

Matadors Kick Off Season at Cal State Bakersfield


Matadors Kick Off Season at Cal State Bakersfield
This Week in Northridge Water Polo
Sunday * Cal State Bakersfield * Bakersfield, Calif. * 10 a.m.
Sunday * Fresno Pacific * Bakersfield, Calif. * 12 p.m.

SENIOR STANDOUTS
After leading the Matadors to a 16-19 mark in 2007, Allison Brookes and Dayna Van Gorder are back in hopes of guiding Northridge to its best-ever campaign in their final seasons as Matadors. Brookes has established herself as one of the top players in program history in her three seasons and is coming off another outstanding season in 2007, which saw her become the first Matador to tally 60 goals, 40 assists, and 40 steals in one season. Her 46 assists and 41 steals were career highs, and heading into the season, Brookes is just six scores away form becoming the Matadors' all-time leading scorer.

Van Gorder benefited often from defensive attention Brookes, and the junior also had an outstanding season in her 2006 campaign, her first as a Matador. A tenacious defender, Van Gorder is devoted to her role in that end of the pool but is also a gifted scorer. Van Gorder accumulated 52 goals and 38 steals and also chipped in with 41 assists.

Together, the pair form an imposing duo in the two-meter defense corps.

ANOTHER YEAR OLDER...
The Matadors sported one of the best freshman classes around in 2007, and now, those players are another year older and another year stronger and smarter. The development of her sophomore class has led head coach Molly Barnes to call this year's group "an entirely different team." Barnes cites the 2007 freshmen as having grown in maturity and says the team will gel earlier in the season this time around, as opposed to a 2007 campaign in which the team didn't find their stride until late in the year.

The seven-player sophomore class consists of Kristin McLaughlin, Kirra Kylander, Renee Gargiulo, Chelsea Curran, Bethany Scamara, Alexis Gackstetter, and Jillian Stapf.

Juniors Jessica Coy and Melissa Mendoza are also back to help lead the squad. Coy had another outstanding season and is quietly compiling one of the best resumes in Northridge history. Coy notched 38 goals in her freshman campaign in 2006 and collected 30 more last season. She led the team with 47 assists in 2007. Mendoza chipped in with 13 goals in 2007.

CAGE MATCH
Jillian Stapf is back in the cage in 2008, but this season the sophomore will have another goalie on the depth chart to provide her with some competition and spell her in stretches throughout the season. Stapf established herself as one of the top goalies in the MPSF in just her first season, leading the conference in saves and setting a new Northridge single-season record with 348 stops. Stapf routinely made spectacular plays, including scoring a goal from her own net in one game and closing out the regular season with 34 saves over two games to earn Player of the Week honors in the MPSF.

Stapf's backup will be Nicole Concialdi, a heralded freshman with excellent skills that Barnes envisions as a starter for the Matadors down the line.

FRESH FACES
The Matadors feature four new players in 2008: Concialdi, fellow freshmen Sydney Sonoda and Courtney Hudgins, and junior transfer Tara McGinley. Tara McGinley has proven herself as perhaps the most explosive player for Northridge, and Molly Barnes counts her first five strokes as "the most explosive for any player we've had." Hudgins and Sonoda are both talented players with big-time potential. Sonoda will get minutes at two-meter but is more of an attacker, and Hudgins will contribute in her first season and will benefit from collegiate coaching.

SCOUTING THE...
Runners: Cal State Bakersfield returns the core of a good team from 2007, including Amanda Ortiz. The junior center is coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign in which she bagged 123 goals, a clip of 3.51 per contest. Her squad finished 25-12 and was 10-3 in the WWPA.

Sunbirds: Fresno Pacific is fielding the first women's water polo team in school history. The team is 0-2 after losses to UC Davis and Sonoma State.

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