Coming off a regular season ending victory over No. 16 University of California, Santa Barbara (19-13, 2-5 Big West), the Matadors (21-11, 3-4) women’s water polo team enters postseason play on a high note Friday afternoon.
Going into the Big West Conference tournament as the fifth seed, CSUN will face off against fourth seeded Long Beach State at 1:45 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
“It definitely helps our overall confidence,” head coach Dr. Marcelo Leonardi said about last Friday’s win. “Winning our last conference game keeps on our pathway of peaking at the right time. Our conference is so talented and balanced, that on any given day any team can beat any team. We must be playing our best this weekend.”
Facing Long Beach twice this season, the Matadors lost each of the games, but with two drastically different results.
In the first match, Northridge took a late lead against the 49ers 8-7, but saw Long Beach come back and tie it before the end of regulation. Held scoreless in both overtime periods, Northridge eventually lost the match 10-8.
In their second matchup, Long Beach pounced on the Matadors early, coming away with an 11-5 win.
“Long Beach does a great job of running a 2-3-4 zone on our center play,” Leonardi said. “We will have to be patient on our attack and our shooters will have to be on. We will have to be disciplined in our schemes and try to force them to take poor shots while challenging their shooters.”
Bringing a balanced attack will be important for CSUN, but they have plenty of offensive weapons to keep up with the 49ers. Lindsy Nelson is currently tied for fourth in the Big West with 67 goals on the season, which is also good for sixth-best in CSUN history.
The Matadors have four players with over 42 goals on the season, including last week’s Big West Women’s Water Polo Player of the Week sophomore defender Kelcie Ferreira. Ferreira earned the honors after scoring a career-high four goals against UCSB in Friday’s match.
Anchoring the defense for Northridge, sophomore goalkeeper Kiernan Davis ranks among the best goalies in the conference. Playing over 944 minutes on the season, Davis averages 8.81 saves per game and has 260 on the season.
Long Beach State comes into the game with their own offensive and defensive weapons. Junior driver Chelsea Parks is ranked sixth in the conference with 56 goals and junior goalkeeper Kelly Ringel is in the top-five with 240 saves on the season.
The conference tournament will have three days of play throughout the weekend. Depending on the outcome of Friday’s match, CSUN will face off against either top-seeded Hawai’i or eighth-seeded Pacific. Saturday’s matches will determine those on Sunday, with the championship match scheduled for 4:15 p.m. on Sunday.