The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN ends season in fourth place

The CSUN Matador women’s basketball team was in a celebratory mood on Saturday afternoon.

Northridge’s home finale against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos marked the final home games for the Matadors’ seven seniors; Jazelle Burries, Megan Ching, Krisztina Fuleki, LaJoyce King, Jamie McCaa, Kristin O’Rourke and Ofa Tulikihihifo. Balloons were placed all over the Matadome, including ones that resembled the seniors’ jersey numbers.

However, leave it to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos to dampen the mood at the Matadome Saturday evening. They did so with a 90-79 win over the Matadors that enabled them to take sole possession of second place in the Big West Conference, which gives them a bye into the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, which takes place starting this Wednesday.

“We couldn’t defend,” head coach Staci Schulz said. “They (UC Santa Barbara) came to play.”

In fact, the Matadors’ loss combined with a Cal Poly win at Pacific on the same day knocked CSUN down to fourth place in the conference, meaning Northridge will start its tournament run on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. against the second-lowest remaining seed that comes out of the opening round, which takes place the day before.

Santa Barbara broke loose early with a 17-3 run that gave them a 20-6 lead. setting the tone for the rest of the game.

“They (UCSB) shot well, but for the most part, we let them,” Tulikihihifo said.

The Gauchos carried its monster first half into the second half, leading by 25 points on two occasions.

The Matadors though refused to let the loss dampen the post-game ceremony, where all seven seniors were presented along with their family members.

“Overall, it didn’t hit you until you realized that this was the last game you’ll ever play in you gym,” McCaa said.

Team manager Williece Magee, who played for the Matadors during freshman year in 2003-2004 season was also honored.

The year before each of the seniors came to CSUN, the program had won just three games in 2002-2003. Their first year at CSUN proved to be a learning curve as the team won just six games, though it came just a tiebreaker short of qualifying for the Big West Tournament.

The 2004-2005 season saw the Matadors turn the corner dramatically, going to 18 wins, including an 11-7 mark in the Big West Conference. The highlight of that season was an eight-game winning streak that earned Northridge its first trip to the Big West Tournament.

Last season though, the Matadors lost Tulikihihifo for the entire season to a stress-fracture of her left tibia and as a result, went 10-20, 5-9 in Big West Conference play, but made a spectacular run in the Big West Tournament, upsetting higher seeds UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton before falling to the Gauchos in a thrilling semifinal matchup and this year, the Matadors came within a win of second place in the conference.

“They are the program,” Schulz said of the seven seniors. “They are to be credited with everything that’s happened with this program. They’re great people (and) they’re fierce competitors.”

Though there is still the matter of winning this year’s Big West Tournament and with it the coveted automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, the seniors took some time to reflect on the memories they established at CSUN.

“It’s been really good for me, I made a lot of good friends,” King said. “There were a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of it all, I made a lot of good friends and it was a really good experience and I’m going to miss it.”

Tulikihihifo, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer back in December, has been with the program starting all the way back in 2002, when Tammy Holder first took over as head coach. As mentioned before, Tulikihihifo red-shirted last season due to the foot injury and has seen it all unfold at CSUN from day one.

“It was a good five years,” Tulikihihifo said. “It went by very fast, I have a lot of memories here and hopefully, we can finish it off in the tournament.”

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