In its final game of the regular season, the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team took down No. 9 Cal State Northridge in a tightly contested match that went down to the wire. Thanks to a late goal by sophomore utility Jessie Porter and three big saves by freshman goalkeeper Nikki Quinn in the final minutes, the Gauchos held on to defeat CSUN 8-7.
The win gives UCSB a final conference record of 2-3 and an overall record of 11-14 on the year. Northridge, which has been a dominant team all year, dropped to 22-8 overall and 3-2 in the Big West with the loss.
“The last couple minutes just came down to fighting,” Quinn said. “Being up by one in a position like that can be nerve-wracking, and it just takes will to fight. I think we persevered and did a good job at scoring those last goals and playing really good defense.”
Coming in having lost three straight tough games to conference opponents, the Gauchos were in need of a win to boost their confidence heading into the Big West Championships this upcoming weekend.
Right out of the gates though, the Matadors showed why they are considered one of the top teams in the country by scoring on their first possession.
The Gauchos answered back several minutes later when after working the ball around patiently for much of the possession, sophomore utility Samantha Murphy was able to find an opening and tie the game at 1-1.
After taking a 2-1 lead midway through the first period on a rebound score by freshman attacker Jenna Solberg, UCSB found itself in a dry spell offensively for much of the remainder of the first half.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first period, the Matadors caught the Gauchos on the break with a quick counter that pulled sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw out of goal, allowing an open shot to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Northridge took advantage of the struggling UCSB offense by scoring two more goals in the second period to make it 4-2.
However, in the final two minutes of the second period, the Gauchos came back strong to take the momentum into the half. Sophomore attacker Miranda Schrader held the ball up high on the right side and picked out her spot before firing one past the keeper to cut the deficit to one. Freshman attacker Brenna Thomas followed that up on the next possession with a deep shot from the left side to tie the game at 4-4.
“When you get down by one or two goals you really have to shift gears and just fight from that point on,” Quinn said. “We did a really good job at going out there, controlling the game and staying up by one the entire time.”
In the third quarter, junior utility Lauren Martin took advantage of Northridge on the inside with two strong goals in front of the net. Another goal from freshman attacker Carly Christian gave UCSB three for the quarter, but CSUN had an answer every time.
“We made a couple of small adjustments, but that was just sort of how the game was going,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “There wasn’t necessarily one turning point in the game; we clawed back, got a couple goals, played solid defense and held on from there.”
The biggest adjustment for the Gauchos came in the form of Quinn, who subbed in for the second half. The freshman had played in one game all year before this one, but she made her presence felt in the final period.
Northridge senior attacker Lindsy Duncan scored on a deep lob shot to tie it once again at 7-7 with fewer than six minutes to go, subsequently setting up a thrilling finish.
With 4:30 left in the game, the Gauchos took advantage of a 6-on-5 situation with Porter just getting a shot to go despite the keeper getting a hand to it, giving them the lead once again.
From this point on, every desperate attempt to tie the game was smothered by the UCSB defense and Quinn, who had three big saves late, including an outstanding point-blank stop with just 50 seconds remaining. Northridge was unable to find a shot in the final minute as the Gauchos held on for the win.
No. 5 seed UCSB will play No. 4 seed Long Beach State this Friday at 1:30 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of April 21, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of The Daily Nexus.