By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Long Beach, Calif. – Several minutes after UC Irvine had defeated Cal State Northridge, 11-4, in the championship game of the 2014 Big West Conference Tournament, head coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi held a lengthy team meeting.
He wanted to emphasize that despite the loss to a very strong Anteater squad, he wanted to praise the team for its high character and team work had resulted in a 2014 season that produced a 23-9 record along with a national ranking that reached as high as seventh in the nation.
"We enjoyed a high national ranking, finished second during the regular season, and had several quality wins," said Dr. Leonardi. "Our five seniors deserve special mention. They chalked up a lot of wins and helped get us where we are today. This team is made up of good people. They worked hard to become good water polo players and win a lot of games. At the end of the day, we are champions – win or lose."
For the third time this season, the eleventh-ranked Matadors faced the challenge of trying to defeat sixth-ranked UC Irvine, an Anteater team that captured its fifth Big West Tournament championship in six seasons.
The tenor of the game might have been different if CSUN had made several close, early first period shots that just didn't find the back of the Anteater net. Kelcie Ferreira gave the Matadors their only lead of the game at 5:28 of the first period on a 6-on-5 man advantage.
Back came UC Irvine with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead after the first period.
"If we had made those close shots (during UCI's three-goal run), it would have kept us in the game," said Dr. Leonardi.
UCI goalkeeper Jillian Yocum collected five of her eight saves in the first period.
Strong play in the early portion of the second period gave the Matadors new life. Marisa Young rifled a shot from point-blank range to cut the UCI lead to 3-2. Less than one minute later, Katie Kammer drilled a goal as time ran out in CSUN's possession.
UC Irvine regained the game's momentum thanks to goals by Danielle Warde and Jessie Cardey. Jenny Jamison's goal with 39 seconds remaining in the second period put the Matadors within one goal, 5-4.
However, Hannah Croghan, who gained tournament MVP honors with four goals against CSUN, scored with only eight seconds remaining in the first half.
At halftime … UC Irvine enjoyed a 6-4 lead over Cal State Northridge.
UCI's defense in the second half was stifling. The Matadors didn't score in the final 16 minutes (two periods) while UC Irvine chalked up five goals.
"UC Irvine's defense did a great job on our scorers," said Dr. Leonardi. "They really shut us down in the second half."
Cal State Northridge (23-9) 1-3-0-0 = 4
UC Irvine (24-7) 3-3-2-3 = 11
CSUN Goal Scorers: Kelcie Ferreira 1, Katie Kammer 1, Jenny Jamison 1, Marisa Young 1
UC Irvine Goal Scorers: Hannah Croghan 4, Danielle Warde 3, Jessy Cardey 2, McKenna Mitchell 1, Cambria Shockley 1
CSUN Goalie Saves: Kiernan Davis 4
UC Irvine Goalie Saves: Jillian Yocum 8
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 – UC Santa Barbara (12-15 overall, 2-3 BWC) 11, vs UC Davis (12-19 overall, 0-5 BWC) 10 - Fifth Place
Match 6 – Hawai'i (19-10 overall, 3-2 BWC) 6, Long Beach State 4 (19-12 overall, 2-3 BWC) 4 – Third Place
Match 7 – UC Irvine (24-7 overall, 5-0 BWC) 11, Cal State Northridge (23-9 overall, 3-2 BWC) 4 - Championship Match