The 16th-ranked CSUN women’s water polo team hosted top-ranked UCLA on Saturday and gave the Bruins a tough game, despite losing 10-5.
“We played really well today,” said head coach Molly Barnes. “Our team defense was pretty legit. We had some good stops, good field stops. It’s always a good thing when you can hold the number one team in the country like that.”
Dayna Van Gorder led the Matadors’ offense with two goals. Jessica Coy, Renee Gargiulo and Chelsea Curran scored one goal each.
“I’m pretty excited to score on a team that’s ranked number one,” Van Gorder said.
For UCLA, junior Katie Rulon scored a game-high three goals and senior Jillian Kraus scored two. Anne Belden, Tanya Gandy, Courtney Mathewson, Priscilla Orozco and Brittany Rowe each added one goal.
“Our goal was to keep them under 20 and score five,” Van Gorder said. “We played them tough. We held it together.”
Barnes said that those goals were probably ones set by the team, as the coaches simply told their team to “play as hard as you can, don’t make the same mistakes twice and be a better player at the end of the game than when you started.”
Either way, the Matadors kept up with the three-time national champions and even outscored them in the second quarter.
“They couldn’t get a rhythm against our defense,” Barnes said.
Although UCLA jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period with goals by Kraus and Mathewson, a goal by Curran at 4:43 cut the lead to one. The Bruins’ Rowe scored at 3:22, putting the Bruins up 3-1. The Matadors again closed the gap, with Van Gorder scoring her first goal of the game to make it 3-2 with 46 seconds left in the quarter. A shot at the buzzer, however, put the Bruins up 4-2 to end the first period.
The Matadors were able to hold UCLA scoreless in the second, while Coy scored at 5:42 for a 4-3 score at halftime.
“It was exciting to see the scoreboard at halftime,” Curran said.
But, the Bruins came back harder in the second half, scoring early on a goal by Kraus at 7:15. UCLA lengthened its lead to 6-3 on a goal by Gandy at 3:24. Van Gorder scored her second goal with 58 seconds left in the third period, but the Bruins scored one more just 18 seconds later to end the period with a 7-4 lead.
In the final quarter, Rulon scored quickly to give UCLA an 8-4 lead at 7:41. Gargiulo scored CSUN’s final goal of the game at 6:16. UCLA scored two more goals in the period, to end the game with a 10-5 win.
Barnes said she was happy with the way the team played.
“We played them as well as we ever have,” Barnes said. “We wanted to make it tough. They didn’t pull their starters, they were in the entire time.”
Brookes said that even though she didn’t score a goal, she felt like she “put in.”
Van Gorder said Brookes contributed to the defensive efforts.
“Ally (Brookes) got a sick field block and we fed off it,” Van Gorder said.
A few days prior to the game, Brookes said that it would be exciting to play the top-ranked Bruins, as you can learn a lot from playing them.
So, what did Brookes learn?
“We learned that we have the ability to play amazing defense. We proved to ourselves that we can play with the number one team. It’s only gonna get better from here.”
The Matadors head south to play in the UC Irvine Tournament Saturday and Sunday. The tournament will feature the top 16 of 17 teams in the nation.