Water Polo: CSUN reaches fifth-place game at Big West Tournament

Casey Delich

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Freshman attacker Taitum Herrington lines up a shot against Pacific in Big West Conference Tournament. Photo credit: Karla Henry / Daily Sundial

Freshman attacker Taitum Herrington lines up a shot against Pacific in Big West Conference Tournament. Photo credit: Karla Henry / Daily Sundial

IRVINE — A cross-cage lob goal shot over an approaching goalkeeper by junior attacker Melissa Doll with 24 seconds remaining in the game, gave the fifth-seeded CSUN women’s water polo team a Saturday second round 8-7 victory over eighth-seeded Pacific in the Big West Conference Tournament.

With the Tigers (16-15) tying the score with two minutes left in the game after an exclusion gave them a 6-on-5 advantage, a rebound by Doll kept the Matadors (22-12) attack alive in the final minute. Lobbing the ball behind Pacific junior goalkeeper Michele Relton, the ball bounced on the water and into the net for the game-winner.

“Seeing your captain go one-on-one and just put it in that’s such a big time goal,” said sophomore attacker Katie Kammer, who tied for the Northridge lead with two goals. “We couldn’t be more proud of her, the leadership and the way she stepped up. She works so hard on defense and countering and having her get that last goal it just shows how much work she puts in.”

A day after a first round loss to the fourth-seeded Long Beach State 8-2, where the Matadors were unable to score a goal until the fourth period, CSUN kept this game close throughout.

Ending the first period tied at 2, Northridge gave the Tigers a quick lead in the second on an exclusion for sophomore center Marisa Young. Shooting over three defenders in the goal, Pacific capitalized on the power play.

In under three minutes of play in the second quarter, Pacific extended their lead 4-2 after a shot bounced under the outstretched right arm of sophomore goalkeeper Kiernan Davis.

Those four goals in the first 11 minutes of play would be the last time the Tigers scored for over 13 minutes.

“It was just everyone collectively putting in the effort and having the drive to really press hard and communicate well,” Young said. “Our goalie was on and our defense just clicked, it worked.”

Going into halftime down 4-3, the Matadors came out firing in the second half and took control of the game.

A foul on Pacific with 3:23 in the third would change the tempo of the entire game. A foul shot from five-meters and a goal into the upper left hand corner within two minutes of each other by Kammer, would give CSUN its first lead since 4:40 left in the first quarter.

Winning all four sprints throughout the game, CSUN capitalized on it in the fourth quarter, coming out and scoring a goal in their first possession.

“It helps a lot because then we get the first possession and try to get momentum immediately at the start of the quarter,” Young said.

A hectic fourth quarter saw both teams offenses come alive, with Pacific scoring seconds after CSUN’s opening goal to keep the score close at 6-5.

Junior utility player Jenny Jamison extended the Matadors lead back to its game-high two with a bouncing goal under the goalies arm, but Pacific came back and did a bounce shot of its own to stay within one 15 seconds later.

Frantic final minutes put the game in jeopardy for CSUN after Young was called for the exclusion and Pacific tied the game at 7, but Doll’s shot would be enough to lead the Matadors to a victory.

“I thought we got a little careless at the end, overcommitting on hard fouls which allowed them to get an exclusion,” Leonardi said. “The defense held on for quite as long and I still trusted our defense and goalie play.”