CSUN ends up fourth in tournament

Eric Gonzalez

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The Cal State Northridge water polo team went into the Big West Tournament as the top seed, but finished the season fourth after losing 6-5 in overtime to UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals on Saturday and 10-6 to UC Davis a day after in the game for third place.

The loss to UC Santa Barbara was a close affair in which both teams played tough defense.

‘The game was defensive-minded for both teams,’ CSUN Assistant Coach Marcelo Leonardi said in a phone interview. ‘Both teams had four goals throughout regulation and they beat us on a lob over (goalkeeper) Jill (Stapf).’

The goal came quickly in sudden death overtime after Matadors and Gauchos finished regulation tied at 5-5. On UCSB’s first possession, Gillian Morgan got a shot over Stapf for her second goal of the day and the win.

‘It was a perfectly-placed ball and there wasn’t much Jill could do,’ Leonardi said.

The Matadors put as much effort into the game as they could, but they weren’t able to finish, junior Alison Pierce said.

‘We put everything into the game, but it just wasn’t good enough,’ she said.

The Matadors had a balanced attack. Jessica Coy, Whitney Delgado, Renee Gargiulo, Sydney Sonoda and Pierce each scored a goal.

The loss against the Gauchos eliminated the Matadors’ chance at winning the Big West championship and put them into the third-place game on Sunday against UC Davis.

Against the Aggies, the Matadors were forced to play a game of catch-up only to ultimately lose 10-6.

‘We were down early, 3-0, (but) we were able to tie it at 4-4 in the second period,’ Leonardi said. ‘We used a lot of energy to get back into it and they ended up jumping ahead by three more goals, and we couldn’t recover.’

Kristin McLaughlin scored one of her two goals for the momentary tie, but CSUN faded away from then on.

In the final period, the Aggies went on a scoring rampage, tossing in three goals in three minutes to go ahead 9-5. The Matadors scored another goal, but the margin of defeat remained the same in the end: four. It was the Matadors’ second disappointing loss in two days.

Despite the losses, the Matadors had great achievements this season, Leonardi said. It was just unfortunate for them they couldn’t attain their ultimate goal.

‘We accomplished a lot this season and had a lot of firsts,’ Leonardi said.

CSUN was ranked ninth in the nation at one point this season, putting the Matadors in the top-ten list for the first time in their history.

The season was a positive and allowed people to find out how tough Northridge is, Pierce said.

‘Overall, we went through a lot and made people look at us as a good water polo program,’ she said.

The recognition was something new, especially after the Matadors got themselves to a new league this season: the Big West.

‘This is the first season being in the conference,’ Leonardi said. ‘The conference adds parity and it makes it pretty exciting because everyone gets a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.’

A seed in the prestigious tournament will not happen this season, but Leonardi is looking forward to a bright future.

‘We are losing three of our seniors, one of them our captain Jessica Coy,’ Leonardi said. ‘But we are returning our core nucleus.

‘Our freshman, sophomore and junior class have had a good percentage of our scoring this season, so things look positive in the future.’

The goal for the Matadors this season was to win the tournament and become the Big West champs. Though they fell short, they should have just as good if not a better chance to accomplish that goal next year, Leonardi said.