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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Matadors end Roadrunners’ streak

It’s tough to be playing water polo in the very talented Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), but a very young CSUN women’s water polo team played a tough match against #19 Cal State Bakersfield Saturday and put together the kind of game that head coach Molly Barnes has been looking for from her team.

The Matadors snapped Bakersfield’s 13-game winning streak with a 14-10 win over the Runners in a mini-tournament at Burns Recreation and Aquatic Center at Loyola Marymount University on Saturday.

“That was by far our best performance we’ve had all year,” Barnes said. “We had very balanced scoring. We had three or four players step up in crunch time and that’s what has to happen for us to win and it happened today.”

Junior Christine Cruz led CSUN in scoring with three goals in what was a very physical game. Freshman Kirra Kylander, sophomore Jessica Coy, junior Danya Van Gorder, freshman Chelsea Curran, and freshman Kristin McLaughlin each contributed to the win with two goals. Senior Jennifer Macdonell also scored a goal in the win and freshman goalie Jillian Stapf made eight saves for the Matadors.

Earlier in the day, CSUN lost to #11 Loyola Marymount University (LMU) 10-4. Although the Matadors scored first on a goal by sophomore Devin Sloan, LMU quickly scored four goals before CSUN was able to answer with a goal by Van Gorder. Cruz scored again for CSUN in the second quarter, but LMU led at the half 6-3. Junior Allison Brookes scored the only goal for the Matadors in the second half, while LMU scored four more. Stapf had 12 saves during the game.

“LMU beat us and we didn’t play very well,” Barnes said. “They are a senior-laden team and they’re very good.”

While other teams have rosters filled with seniors, the Matadors have only one active senior on the roster this year and several new faces.

“We have to constantly remind ourselves that this is a really, really youthful team,” Barnes said. “It does make a difference.”

Leadership responsibilities have fallen to Brookes, who earned an All-American Honorable Mention last season and was the leading scorer for the Matadors and in the MPSF with 72 goals. Brookes scored in 29 of CSUN’s 33 games last season, scoring multiple goals in 21 games.

Although she thought she would have another year to establish herself as a leader, Brookes has embraced the responsibility.

“I want to do it for the team,” Brookes said.

Brookes has also had to deal with the pressures of being recognized as a scoring threat to other teams.

“She’s being shut down a lot because she’s a returning All-American,” Barnes said.

“There are times when the position I usually score a lot of goals from is completely shut down and I’m completely pressed and it’s frustrating,” said Brookes.

She tries to work around the situation, however, and is still the team’s leading scorer this season with 25 goals. Brookes also leads the team in assists with 14 and is third in steals with 19.

“If someone is concentrating on guarding me, Chelsea or Cruz may be wide open,” Brookes said.

Cruz, a junior, has scored 20 goals this season and is second on the team in goals scored.

“She’s benefiting a lot from Ally having a target on her back,” Barnes said.

Freshman Chelsea Curran is “a huge part of our offense,” Barnes said. “She’s creating a plethora of opportunities for us offensively.”

Barnes points to Curran’s ability to gain CSUN man-up opportunities by drawing 25-30 exclusions this season.

Transfer Dayna Van Gorder, although a defensive specialist, has been able to take advantage of her shooting ability as well. Van Gorder has 18 goals this season and 13 assists.

“Offensively she’s been playing a position on six on five and she’s been taking shots,” Barnes said.

Coy has scored 13 goals this season and 10 steals.

“Jessica Coy has totally stepped up and is making a really big effort on our offense and she’s playing well,” Barnes said.

Stapf has also made a big impact in the goalie position, with 125 saves this season.

“We depend on her a lot,” said Barnes. “We changed our defense because that’s the kind of respect we have for her as a team,” Barnes said.

The change in defense puts more pressure on Stapf by forcing the opponents to take more outside shots. “She’s up to the challenge. She’s been playing really well,” Barnes said.

“Our defense isn’t a huge area of concern for us. It’s our offense that struggles. That’s what we know we have to work on to be a better offensive team,” Barnes said.

Twelve of the 13 teams in the MPSF are ranked in the top 20 teams in the country. The Matadors have been in and out of the national rankings this season, falling out last week from their rank of 20th.

“We belong in the top 20,” Barnes said.

When you combine the team’s youth with the difficulty of the conference, winning games doesn’t come easy or often.

“You have to focus on improvement because you’re not going to win a lot of games,” Barnes said.

The goals of the team have been shifting and the team needs to develop their chemistry in the water because there are so many new faces this year.

“And, improving and just getting to the point where we put it all together,” Barnes said.

After their win against the Roadrunners on Saturday, Barnes said CSUN did what they needed to do offensively.

“We needed to break through and we broke through,” Barnes said.

She said the win was a really good balanced effort.

“And, we’re happy,” Barnes said. “And, you can tell, we’re having fun.”

CSUN hosted a mini-tournament on Tuesday at Matador Pool. CSUN played Marist at 2 p.m. and Occidental at 6 p.m. Marist and Occidental played at 4 p.m.

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