The 2010 Cal State Northridge women’s water polo team’s journey began with a dream to win the Big West championship, which seemed possible when it was ranked No. 9 in the nation early in the season, for CSUN fell short as it lost to the defending champion, UC Irvine, in the conference championship tournament game (April 25) in Long Beach.
The Matadors had never made it to the championship game in their eight years of existence. This season they finished with an overall record of 28-8, a new school record, and were ranked No. 11 nationally.
Northridge went 4-1 in Big West play, tying with Pacific for first, and won second place in the Big West Tournament.
The Matadors bump in the road came int he form of a shocking sudden death overtime loss to No. 16 Pacific. The Tigers dominated the game by shutting down CSUN in the center two-meter on offense forcing it to shoot from outside, which it could not covert on.
During non-conference play CSUN dominated by going 19-5, and outscored its opponents 249 to 147 in goals.
The Northridge team had chemistry like no other, before games they were very relaxed and having fun with each other and during games it showed. The players relied on each and everyone and it showed with both their defense and offense.
Their offense was dominate scoring 371 goals, with sophomore Whitney Delgado stacking up 80 goals for a single-season school record and had 347 assists led by senior Kirra Kylander with 67. There was only one game this season that CSUN’s offense didn’t have more than one player with more than one goal.
The Matadors explosive offense couldn’t have survived without feeding off their strong defense this season. The team had 297 steals, 59 blocks and 288 kick outs.
With the defense doing its job, in front of the net two-time All-American Jillian Stapf shined as goal keeper. Stapf career ends at CSUN with a total of 1,302 saves, she tied a career best of 20 saves in a game, she also holds a single season record for most saves in a season with 364, and was named 2010 Big West Water Polo Player of the Year.
One area the team could not improve on was defeating top ranked teams. CSUN lost twice to No. 9 Arizona State, No. 2 USC, and No. 5 UCLA. They fared better in its second game against Arizona State, but still lost.
Going into conference play, CSUN had to battle with its opponents, Long Beach scored three straight goals in the conference opener before Northridge took charge of the game.
The Matadors had their first overtime against UC Irvine and won. Their first come-from-behind win came against Santa Barbara in an intense game on the road and the game against UC Davis was a sudden death overtime win.
Going into the Big West tournament CSUN faced Santa Barbara for the second straight season in the semifinals but this time prevailed reaching the championship.
In the Big West championship game, UC Irvine dominated with outside shots, scoring five goals in the first and closed the two-meter area so CSUN could not score or gain the lead in the game.
The Matadors say goodbye to seven seniors, but their future seems bright with sophomores Delgado, who led the team in goals, and Heidi Pettinger, who helped the defense in the two-meter. Pettinger’s three goals in the semifinals against UC Santa Barbara helped the team get to the championship game. Also, Junior Sydney Sonoda was third in team scoring and named first team All-Big West Conference along with Delgado. These are just a few of the players that will come back next season in hopes to win the Big West championship.