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

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

CSUN women’s water polo rallies for comeback win on Senior Day

Senior and utility, Maria Sandghdar, screams as her team scores a point against University of California, Santa Barbara on April 5, 2024. Photo by Mackenzie Ferguson.

No. 25 CSUN Water Polo (17-14, 1-5 Big West) showcased their unwavering fight in a thrilling last minute of a game on a highly emotional Senior Day. Defender Anna Pal led the Matadors to a remarkable comeback in the fourth quarter, scoring three straight goals over the final two minutes to secure a 9-8 victory over No. 15 UC Santa Barbara (14-12, 1-4 Big West).

“It was such a great win, we’ve been waiting for this win for three years now,” said Pal excitedly. “It feels even better to come back and grab the win against them, it makes it even more special.”

The bleachers were filled with families, friends and students who came to honor CSUN’s seniors in their final home game of the regular season. Before the match commenced, the Matadors paid tribute to their eight senior players—Meghan Lopez, Shelby Hovanesian, Jenna Olson, Beata Hitterer, Carly Bockstahler, Maria Sandoghdar, Nicole Thomas and Tatiana Smeltzer. Each senior received a framed poster board containing two CSUN water polo caps and a photo of them in action.

“It’s bittersweet, to say the least,” said head coach Matt Warshaw. “That group was recruited pre-COVID, which makes it special because they’ve been through a lot in the last four years. The first year they were here, they couldn’t even come to campus, and the second season, we opted out of the season. Seeing them move on after they stuck with us was pretty emotional.”

The game on Friday also presented goalkeeper Meghan Lopez with a chance to reach 800 saves for her career with the Matadors. She met the goal and recorded 14 crucial saves in the game to finish with 807 total in her career as a Matador, helping make this comeback possible.

The Matadors, struggling in their last ten games with a 2-8 record, refused to let their past setbacks define them. Despite losing all their conference games, they secured a close win today, a significant victory that could propel them into the playoffs with renewed momentum and optimism.

With the playoffs around the corner, CSUN had ample opportunity to return to the win column, as UC Santa Barbara had a 1.5-game lead in the Big West Standings.

The first half was very competitive, with both teams trading goals back and forth, but it never felt like the Matadors were in control of the game. Whenever CSUN scored and shrank the lead, the Gauchos would return the favor to keep the Matadors at bay.

CSUN was outscored every quarter until the fourth when they outscored the visiting team 4-1. Matador attacker Tatiana Smeltzer opened the quarter scoring a little over two minutes in, which put the Matadors within a goal.

The story was the Matador defense, which held strong and did not allow goals for most of the fourth quarter. The Gauchos scored their first goal of the quarter with under three minutes left. But in the next three possessions of the game, CSUN’s defense came in strong, holding Santa Barbara scoreless for the last two minutes of the match.

Pal would score three clutch goals, giving the Matadors the lead for the first time since it was 2-1. With 19 seconds left in the game, Pal found room on the right side of the net and scored to give CSUN the lead, 9-8. UCSB had one last look to tie the game for overtime, but Lopez picked up the save on the last shot attempt to seal CSUN’s win.

“This is sports, what we train for, to get wins like this,” Warshaw said. “It feels really good, and it’s been a while since we beat those guys. They’re always a tough team to beat. Any time we get a Big West victory, it’s a big deal. This is the best conference in college water polo.”

The Matadors’ victory, which helped them snap their five-game losing streak, moved them to the sixth spot in the conference, but their 5-4 loss at Fullerton moved them back to seventh. They will look to move back up in the standings as they prepare for their final games on the road against UC Davis Saturday.

“We’re going to enjoy this one,” Warshaw said before the Fullerton match. “We will come back and shoot around tomorrow to prepare for the game on Sunday. There isn’t time to gameplan, but there is time to rest and prioritize being ready for the last two games on the road.”

More to Discover