Champions Once Again
UCI 9, CSUN 8
With eight seconds left to play, UC Irvine’s defense was either going to make them or break them. If the Lady Anteaters held on the final possession, then they would be able to erase their defensive lapses, their failures to clog the passing lanes and their inabilities to pressure the Matadors. But if the Lady Anteaters gave up a goal, then it would be their defense that let them down against the 21-11 Cal State Northridge Matadors.
Following a Matador timeout, CSUN’s Leah Janke positioned herself in front the of the UCI goal and received the ball from a teammate in hopes of tying the game at nine apiece before time expired. As Janke took hold of the ball, two Anteaters smothered her and knocked the ball away to UCI’s Lauren Davis. Davis hugged the ball and did not let go until the final whistle blew.
With that final defensive stand, the Lady Anteaters escaped with a narrow 9-8 victory on Saturday, April 16.
“We escaped with a victory. I didn’t think we played well,” Head Coach Dan Klatt said. “We had a couple of people that had some big shots. I think we can do a better job and we will do a better job.”
Some of those big shots came from freshman Danielle Warde, who led the team with four goals and upped her season total to 43. Sophomore Jesse Cardey added another four, while Courtney Collyer chipped in with one. For most of the match, UCI’s defense put Davis in tough positions, allowing eights goals but also tallying eight saves in the win.
Warde put the Lady Anteaters on the board when she stole the ball and raced to CSUN’s cage, slamming the ball in the back of the net and giving UCI an early 1-0 advantage. Late in the first quarter, Warde received a pass from Kelsey Klatt and scored her second goal of the quarter.
Every time Warde scored, the Matadors retaliated. CSUN took advantage of UCI defensive breakdowns, finding the Matadors’ Whitney Delgado wide open on the left side of the pool. Delgado received the pass for a teammate and floated the ball over Davis’ outstretched hand. Janke scored her first goal at the end of the first quarter to tie the game at two apiece. In the second quarter, both teams exchanged knock out punches, as they each scored two goals and went into halftime tied at four.
After failing to capitalize on a couple of offensive opportunities in the first half, the Lady Anteaters found a rhythm in the third quarter. Cardey gave UCI the lead when she fired a shot that hit the cross bar and bounced in the cage. Warde upped the lead to two when she skipped the ball past CSUN’s keeper. The Lady Anteaters added two more goals in the third quarter and headed into the fourth with a two-point lead, 8-6.
Warde opened up the final quarter with her fourth goal of the game, giving the Lady Anteaters a three-goal lead. UCI’s defense left the door open for the Matadors and they took advantage. With no pressure being applied by the Anteaters, Janke and Melissa Doll scored two goals, cutting the lead to one. After giving the Matadors several opportunities, the ’Eaters finally shut the door on the final possession of the game.
“We didn’t play well enough to not be in that position,” Klatt said. “We deserved to be in a position where we had to defend the last possession and fortunately we got the stop.”
UCI 11, UCSB 5
Coach Klatt and the rest of the Lady Anteaters rode the arm of freshman Michaela Pierandozzi to UC Irvine’s second championship in three years.
In the 11-5 victory, Pierandozzi scored four goals, while Cortney Collyer added three and Jesse Cardey finished the game with two.
Despite scoring five goals in the first quarter, the Anteaters entered halftime with a one-goal lead.
The third quarter proved to be the difference. The Anteaters exploded for five goals, gaining the separation they needed.
UCI wraps up the season when they travel to Long Beach on April 21, before traveling to Santa Barbara for the Big West Tournament.