Nothing Watered Down About It
Currently ranked sixth in the nation, the UC Irvine women’s water polo team has won two back-to-back games over the No. 13 Cal State Northridge Matadors and the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. With just a game remaining in Big West play against the Long Beach State 49ers, the ’Eaters are in contention to claim the Big West title.
On Sunday, April 7, at the Anteater Aquatics Complex, Irvine clinched a sweet 6-4 victory over the Matadors to climb the national rankings from No. 7 to No. 6.
In the first period, CSUN jumped out to a 1-0 lead and forced the ’Eaters to go 0-for-7 in shot attempts. However, despite the Matadors being able to fend off Irvine’s offense initially, the ’Eaters made up for their scoreless first period with a standout defense, allowing just one CSUN attempt to find the back of the net.
While the Matadors went into the second period with a 1-0 advantage, a pair of UCI goals would make it 2-1 at halftime for an Irvine lead going into the break.
In the third period, the ’Eaters would force two penalties, giving ’Eaters Hannah Croghan and Cambria Shockley a chance for Irvine to further distance itself. Both Croghan and Shockley converted the opportunities.
While the Matadors snuck two past sophomore goalkeeper Jillian Yocum in the third, the ’Eaters maintained a 5-3 lead after totaling three in the third period.
With a comfortable 5-3 advantage going into the fourth, both teams would add one each, culminating in a 6-4 final in Irvine’s advantage.
Yocum amassed 13 saves on the day, while Croghan and McKenna Mitchell both scored two goals for the ’Eaters. Junior Hillary Estrada led Irvine on the defensive end, totaling three of the ’Eaters’ 11 steals. Freshman Kelsey Thornton added two steals of her own.
Almost a week later, on Saturday, April 13, the (16-8, 4-1) ’Eaters defended home territory once again as they cruised to an 11-5 victory over the (18-11, 2-3) UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
Irvine jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first. However, the Gauchos quickly answered when UCSB freshman Bryn Hudson scored a pair of her own goals.
With a 2-2 knot going into the second period, the ’Eaters buckled down and held the Gauchos scoreless until the half while surmounting a 6-2 lead. The Gauchos would not get as close as they were in the first for the remainder of the game.
The Anteaters continued to outscore the Gauchos in every frame with a 2-1 advantage in the third and a 3-2 advantage in the fourth for an 11-5 final.
As the ’Eaters added a W to their record, the all-around team effort is aiding their quest to climb the Big West standings. In the 11-5 victory, eight ’Eaters scored at least once as Yocum had a solid nine saves in goal and Annika Nelson grabbed two saves of her own in the second half of the fourth period.
Senior Kelsey Klatt reached a collegiate milestone, as she scored her 100th and 101st goal as an Anteater.
Ambyr Stewart and Michaela Pierandozzi added two goals in the victory as well, while Pierandozzi also earned four exclusions.
Mitchell contributed a goal, an assist and earned two exclusions, while Croghan notched a goal, two assists, a steal and a field block. Estrada also added a goal, two assists and two steals.
Freshmen Thornton and Cambria Shockley also had a goal to their name in the victory.
With the two wins, the ’Eaters are now 17-8 overall and are 5-1 in conference play to sit in second place in the Big West standings just behind Hawai’i.
With just one game remaining in Big West play, the ’Eaters face cross-town rival Long Beach State on Thursday, April 18, at Long Beach.
If the ’Eaters secure the victory over LBSU, they will share the Big West title with the Rainbows. However, a loss would mean Hawai’i’s first-ever Big West championship in its first season in the league.
Hawai’i, along with other Big West participants, will travel to Irvine April 26-28 for the 2013 Big West Tournament.