The Cal State Northridge women’s water polo team failed to take advantage of their season home opener against the UCLA Bruins and the California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) Roadrunners Feb. 3.
The Matadors lost the first match against the Bruins 20-2 and then lost a close match to CSUB, 13-11.
CSUN began its season ranked 18th in the nation, and faced the 2005 NCAA national champions and number-one ranked UCLA Bruins.
From the beginning, the Matadors struggled against the Bruins’ speed and defense. CSUN struggled to defend and find a way to score against the top-ranked team in the nation. It took more than 11 minutes for the Matadors to score their first goal, but by then, the Bruins had already scored nine goals. UCLA out-shot CSUN 30 to 10, and the only goals scored for CSUN were by sophomore Allison Brookes.
The Matadors moved on to face CSUB. The Matadors improved offensively and defensively, trailing only 9-8 at the end of the third quarter. But CSUB overcame the pressure and went on to beat CSUN 13-11.
The match went back and forth, with the Roadrunners leading, then the Matadors tying the game. But CSUB sealed its victory in the fourth quarter when they scored three goals to build a four-goal cushion, which eventually gave the Roadrunners the win.
The Matadors were out-shot by the Roadrunners 29 to 26. Senior goalie Graziella Caredda had nine saves and sophomore Christine Cruz led the team in scoring with four goals.
The Matadors never led in either game, and struggled to gain the first possession at the beginning of each quarter against both teams.
“We need tons of improvement,” head coach Molly Barnes said. “We were very shaky at times and very sluggish. We need to settle down and not fall apart like we did.”
Despite the home losses, Barnes found some positives from the team.
At times, the team played solid defense and shot some good goals, she said. The team will continue to improve after practicing and getting to know each other. The squad has only practiced for about a month and they do not have the tools to win games like these yet, Barnes said.
“We looked sluggish today, but we will definitely get better,” Barnes said. “CSUB has gotten better since last year, but we will definitely play better next time we meet.”
The team will play better as soon as they start to mesh well, which is difficult because of several new faces on the team, Barnes said. The team has four freshmen on the roster and several transfer students, and will require time to develop, Barnes said.
“We have a lot of younger players to develop this year,” Brookes said. “We definitely need them to develop to get better.”
The women’s water polo team finished last season with a 16 ranking, even reaching as high as 14 at one point in the season. Last year’s team, however, is much different from this year’s team.
The team cannot be compared to last year’s team because of the new faces and inexperienced players, Barnes said.
The Matadors will play next weekend in San Diego at the UCSD Triton Invitational. The Matadors’ next home match will be Feb.. 18 against Long Beach State and Feb. 19 against Stanford.
Oscar Areliz can be reached at email@example.com