LOSS: The Big West Championship took two overtimes to decide and Hawai’i emerged victorious.
UH 5, UCI 4 (2OT)
The no. 6 UC Irvine women’s water polo team (21-9) split the regular season conference title with no. 7 Hawai’i (21-9). On Sunday, April 28, Irvine and Hawai’i squared off for the Big West Tournament Championship. Hawai’i’s senior attacker, Monika Eggers, broke a 4-4 tie, netting a goal with less than one minute remaining in the second overtime period.
With just seconds left, UCI held possession but turned the ball over, missing out on one last chance to force a third overtime period.
Hannah Croghan, Emily Carlson, Michaela Pierandozzi and Hillary Estrada scored one goal each for UCI.
In their first season as a member of the Big West, Hawai’i ended UCI’s four-year run of consecutive Big West Tournament Championships. Hawai’i is the first team not named UCI to win the Big West Tournament.
SDSU 5, UCI 7
The no. 8 ranked San Diego State Aztecs (22-10) were no match for UCI on Saturday evening in the Big West Tournament semifinals.
UCI jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first quarter, then extended the advantage to 4-2 at the half, led by eight first-half blocks by goalkeeper Jillian Yocum.
Pierandozzi and freshman McKenna Mitchell paced the Anteaters with two goals apiece. Freshman Ambyr Stewart, Croghan and senior Kelsey Klatt added one goal each. Pierandozzi nailed a clutch shot with 53 seconds remaining in the game to push the one goal lead to two, putting the game on ice. Croghan shined, registering one field block, two assists and two steals.
With the 7-5 win, UCI has now scored at least seven goals in four of their last five matches.
UCD 5, UCI 8
A 6-2 halftime lead was enough to distance UCI (20-8) from no. 18 UC Davis (14-6) on Friday afternoon at the Anteater Aquatics Complex in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals. Irvine defeated Davis 8-5 to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
“We looked good defensively for the most part,” UCI coach Dan Klatt said. “Davis is a physical, aggressive team, so it was a solid win. They’re a seven seed (in this tournament) and every game they’ve lost has been by one or two goals.”
The Anteaters took a 2-1 lead in the first quarter as they controlled the tempo early.
“It’s tough to sit around all day,” Coach Klatt said of playing in the afternoon. “There were nerves playing at home, but we were ready for this game. Now we’re in the tournament.”
In the third quarter, Estrada netted her third goal of the match with 6:09 remaining, putting the Anteaters up 7-2.
On March 29, freshman Cambria Shockley scored the go-ahead goal with one second left at UC Davis to take a 7-6 win. Less than two minutes after Estrada’s third goal on Friday afternoon, Shockley scored off a field block for her second goal of the day and 25th of the season, extending Irvine’s match-high lead to six.
Defensively, the Anteaters suffocated the Aggies’s attack until letting up in the second half. UCD outscored UCI 3-2 in the second half, shutting out UCI 2-0 in the final frame.
Coach Klatt referred to the team as mature and fearless.
“Kelsey is a leader and she’s a great person,” Coach Klatt said. “She can anticipate what’s going to happen two to three seconds ahead of time.”
The Anteaters are now headed to the NCAA Tournament, hosted by Harvard from May 10-12 in Massachusetts. UCI finished fourth nationally in 2012, falling 10-9 to UCLA in the third place matchup.
“We’ve been a little intimidated in the past,” Coach Klatt said, “but we’ve grown out of that as a program.”