Starting the season as the 17th-ranked team in the country, the Matadors women’s water polo team claimed fifth place in the Big West Conference Tournament in April to complete their season as the 15th-ranked team.
Playing in one of the best conferences in the country that included six teams in the top-20 nationally, the Matadors battled their way to a 23-12 record, 3-4 in conference. The 23 wins for Northridge ranks third all-time in school history, and is the most since 2010.
“For the most part it was a successful season,” said head coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi. “We were consistently in the top-15 and won the games we should have won. We competed against the teams ranked ahead of us. All of our losses in conference were close, we went 3-4 in conference and won our last two games.”
Starting the season with a tournament at UC Santa Barbara, CSUN lost its first game to fifth-ranked Arizona State. Regrouping from that game, the Matadors reeled off seven straight wins, scoring no less than 10 points and winning by double digits twice during the streak.
“It was really motivating to start out that way and to see all our hard work and hell week had all come together and it was successful because we were successful,” said senior attacker Leah Janke.
Four CSUN players finished with 43 goals or more for the season, led by junior attacker Lindsy Nelson’s. Nelson’s team-high 70 goals rank fourth in school history and fifth in the Big West for the season.
As a team, Northridge ranked third in the conference with 10.03 goals per game, trailing only Hawaii and Long Beach State.
Led on defense by sophomore goalkeeper Kiernan Davis, Davis played in 35 games for the Matadors and logged over 1,000 minutes in the net throughout the season. Finishing the season with 289 saves, averaging 8.89 saves per game, Davis ranked third in the conference in saves.
Although Davis ranked among the best goalies in the conference, CSUN allowed nearly 7.71 goals per game, which ranked them fourth in the conference.
“It’s intimidating (to be ranked among the best goalies in conference). You know the goalies are always going to show up and its going to be a good match,” said sophomore Kiernan Davis. “There is never an easy game in our conference.”
Nelson and sophomore center Marisa Young were recently awarded with All-Big West honors. Nelson received honorable mention honors for the first time in her career and Young received first-team All-league honors following up her honorable mention award in 2012.
“I’m very proud of them and they both deserved it,” Leonardi said. “Lindsy could have gone second team on her statistics and Marisa’s by far is one of the best five players in the conference.”
Entering the tournament as a fifth-seed against fourth-seed Long Beach State, CSUN was overmatched and lost their first round game 8-2, unable to score until the fourth quarter.
Going into their consolation game against Pacific, CSUN eked out a win with a last minute goal and advanced to the fifth place game against UC Santa Barbara. Holding off a last quarter rally by the Gauchos, the Matadors earned a fifth place finish.
With Janke being the only graduating senior on the team, Leonardi is expecting his team to produce just as well next season.
“We will see the top-three teams in conference in our pool and knowing who I’m bringing in, we will be in the top-three and make a run to qualify for NCAA’s,” Leonardi said.