The No. 9 UCSB women’s water polo team continues riding the success of the past few weeks and dominated the second half of the game against No. 24 Cal State Northridge on Saturday afternoon to extend its winning streak to three games.
Since dropping their home opener against UC Irvine, the Gauchos seem to have found their groove acting efficiently on both ends of the pool putting them back on track to win the Big West.
After this weekend’s victory, Santa Barbara has jumped into the number two spot in the the Big West standings, passing No. 7 Hawaii and No. 4 UC Irvine, who are now placed third and fourth respectively.
UCSB improves to 15-11 overall and 3-1 in conference play. For the Matadors however, this was their fifth straight loss and their final game of the regular season. CSUN was unable to win any matches this season in the Big West and finished with a 0-5 record, 10-19 overall.
Both teams struggled in the first half of the game, however, Northridge was unable to hold on to the lead it had sustained as UCSB pulled out the win with a good second half of play.
The first three minutes of the game went scoreless. It was the Matadors who got on the board first with a penalty shot by Madeleine Sanchez after a foul at the 4:48 mark. Not even a minute later however, junior utility Taylor Shore found the back of the net to tie things up for the Gauchos. Shore took advantage of an ordinary foul three meters away while CSUN’s defense was unattentive.
With 53 seconds left in the first period, Northridge reclaimed the lead on a power play with another goal by Sanchez. The first quarter ended with the Gauchos trailing 2-1, after senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw clinched a save off of a power play by the Matadors.
Down by one point, Santa Barbara did not hesitate and came back to tie the game after Shore drew an ejection on the team’s first possession. The ball was sent straight to the upper right corner by senior attacker Bryn Hudson, collecting her first goal of the match and tying the game 2-2. Despite several 6-on-5 advantage opportunities for both teams, neither one was able to capitalize. CSUN alone had five opportunities, but Santa Barbara held a strong defense making it impossible for the Matadors to put the ball in the cage.
The Gauchos claimed the lead for the first time in the match at the 3:40 mark after sophomore utility Camila Schafer drew an ordinary foul at mid pool and found Shore on the right wing for a pass. Shore would then put the ball away to collect her second goal of the game, but the lead was short-lived because 32 seconds after, CSUN’s Miranda coleman took the ball deep to notch the equalizer.
In the last 16 minutes of the game, UCSB went on a 3-1 run ignited by Hudson with a long shot over the Matador’s keeper Niki Van Vugt putting the Gauchos up 4-3. Once again it appeared as though Northridge would tie the game with a penalty shot opportunity with 1:51 on the clock, but Brokaw came through with a clutch save that allowed the Gauchos to stay on top.
But Brokaw wasn’t the only one not allowing the Matadors to score. Schafer had a block 2:47 mark and senior center Lauren Martin had a major steal in front of the goal to hold CSUN down.
The fourth quarter started off quickly as Shore drew an ejection to give Santa Barbara an opportunity to extend its lead. With a straight on shot from senior utility Samantha Murphy, the gauchos led 5-3. With a pass from Shore, junior utility Miranda Schrader was able to put the nail in the coffin and secure the win for the Gauchos.
Despite a comeback attempt from the Matadors, their last goal came a little too late in the game. The Gauchos worked the rest of the clock to finish with a 6-4 victory.
The win was significantly special for the seniors who celebrated their Gauchos’ Senior Day. Hudson ended with two goals, along with Shore who also collected three assists, three earned ejections, and two steals.
In the cage, Brokaw put up her fourth consecutive double figure saves performance. Aside from Brokaw, Schafer also played a key role in the back side of the pool. The sophomore had three steals and a clutch block in the second half of the game.
Santa Barbara will play its last regular season at Long Beach State next Saturday before the Big West Tournament.