The CSUN water polo team (25-6) set a single-season record with 25 victories, as they went 5-1 during spring break. Also, the Matadors improved to 3-0 in Big West play, after defeating UC Irvine (April 2) and UC Santa Barbara (April 10).
“The most important statistic is that we are 3-0 in conference,” head coach Marcelo Leonardi said about his team, who is first in the Big West standings. “Ultimately our goal is to win a (Big West) championship and by being 3-0 we put ourselves in the position to win a championship.”
In their second conference game this season the Matadors faced then- No. 13 ranked UC Irvine. In an 11-9 overtime victory at Matador Pool, CSUN played a grueling match against the Anteaters.
“We had a full week of practice focusing just on (Irvine),” utility player Sydney Sonoda said. “They played us really tough and they have a lot of good players,”
The Matadors led 5-3 at the half, but the Anteaters came back in the second half scoring three goals in the third to take a 6-5 lead. In the third quarter with seven seconds left, CSUN’s Kristin McLaughlin scored to tie the game at 6-6 going into the fourth.
The Anteaters took a 7-6 lead, but goals from Sonoda and Chelsea Curran gave CSUN the lead. However, UC Irvine was not ready to give up, as it scored to tie the game 8-8 and send it to overtime.
Going into overtime the Matadors had extra life and scored three goals to give them the win.
“They pushed us for four quarters, but we broke them apart after the four quarters in overtime,” Sonoda said.CSUN vs. UC Santa Barbara
In a 7-6 come-from-behind victory on the road against UC Santa Barbara, the Matadors felt they grew as a team.
“As a team playing Santa Barbara at their pool on their senior day brought us completely together,” driver Kirra Kylander said.
After a 2-2 tie at the end of the first period the Gauchos had the lead for most of the game, while CSUN had to remain within striking distance.
At the end of the first half UC Santa Barbara had a 4-3 lead.
In the third quarter the Gauchos had a 5-4 lead before the Matadors tied it on a penalty shot.
Midway through the fourth it was 5-5 when the Gauchos scored to regain the lead at 6-5, but with 32 seconds left McLaughlin scored for CSUN to tie the game.
Santa Barbara continued to shoot themselves in the foot.
In what changed the outcome of the game the Gauchos took a penalty with 20 seconds left in the game that gave the Matadors a penalty shot. CSUN’s leading scorer, Whitney Delgado, scored to give them the lead and the win.
CSUN’s goalie Jillian Stapf kept her team in the game stopping two penalty shots over the Gauchos.
“The team this year is more mature and has more chemistry and we were able to work it out as a team,” Kylander said.
CSUN also had three non-league games, where they went 3-1 losing to No. 1 USC (18-6), and winning against Cal Baptist (6-2), Whittier (16-3) and Chapman (17-5).
This weekend CSUN will compete to remain first in the standings, as they have two more conference games before they head to the Big West Tournament at the end of the month.