UC Davis falls to No. 6 UCI in Big West semifinal

April 29, 2017

DAVIS, Calif. - Top-seeded UC Irvine and third-seeded Long Beach State each won their respective semifinal games while fifth-seeded CSUN defeated UC Santa Barbara in the fifth-place game of the Big West Conference women's water polo tournament at Schaal Aquatics Center Saturday.

The Anteaters, ranked sixth nationally, took down host UC Davis by a 14-2 score; then No. 12 Long Beach State posted an 8-7 overtime upset of No. 8 Hawai'i in the Day 2 finale. The No. 20t Matadors opened the day with a 5-3 victory over the No. 17 Gauchos.

UC Davis and Hawai'i will square off in Sunday's third-place game at noon. UC Irvine then takes on LBSU in the 2 p.m. championship, the winner of which earns the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Championship on May 12-14.

Senior Christina Kotsia and sophomore Tori Morrissey each had two goals, while junior Alexandra Massier hit the go-ahead with 15 seconds left in the first extra frame, propelling Long Beach State to its third consecutive overtime victory and its first Big West title game since 2011.

Junior utility Virginia Smith assisted on three goals, including the game-winner. Freshman goalie Eirini Patras protected the Beach cage with 14 saves plus a pair of steals. Hawai'i had two goals each from Claire Nixon and Irene Gonzalez.

The contest featured five lead changes. The 49ers opened 2-0 in the first quarter, then fell behind after the Rainbow Wahine scored three unanswered in the span of two minutes during the second. Annabelle Harman then assisted Kotsia and Smith on back-to-back to restore the LBSU lead to 4-3. The 49ers maintained a 5-4 edge at halftime before Maartje Keuning's power-play conversion equalized at 5-5 for the only goal in the third quarter.

Kotsia and Nixon traded goals early in the fourth to keep the contest locked at 6-6 before sophomore Femke Aan buried an outside shot to put UH back on top by a 7-6 advantage. Morrissey responded after the next restart for a goal to make it 7-7 with 2:23 left in regulation. Patras had a key save and Harman posted a field block to protect the 49er cage and force the overtime.

Hawai'i goalie Ymane Hage had two saves to hold the 49ers in check early in the overtime period, but Patras and Kotsia also blocked shots on the opposite end to keep the game knotted up. Smith then sent a two-meter entry to Massier, who redirected the shot into the cage for go-ahead with 15 ticks left.

The 'Bows had their best chance to extend the game at the 44-second mark of the second overtime segment. Senior Taylor Molde stole a perimeter pass then drew an exclusion during the ensuing counterattack. However, Harman ran down an errant pass to end the threat, and LBSU successfully ran out what was left of the game clock.

In contrast to Saturday's finale, UC Irvine led wire-to-wire in a 14-2 victory over UC Davis to secure the Anteaters' eighth berth in the Big West Conference championship game in the nine-year history of the tournament. Junior utility Mary Brooks, who either scored or assisted on her team's first seven goals, set a tournament record of six goals for UCI before exiting the game in the fourth.

Sophomore Annie Kutt and freshman Chloe Robinson had the two goals for the Aggies, who did not get on the scoreboard until the 3:55 mark in the third quarter. They trailed 2-0 after the first quarter and 5-0 at halftime. Brooks assisted Kelsey Thornton for the first goal of the game, then scored her own at 3:36 in the first. She added an assist and back-to-back goals in that second frame, then opened the second half with an exclusion goal.

Senior goalkeeper Annika Nelson also held UC Davis in check with 15 saves before checking out of the contest with 2:30 remaining. Overall, the Aggies shot just 2-for-29 in the loss, while the 'Eaters hit 14-for-29.

UC Davis looks for its highest Big West finish since 2012, when it placed second to UCI in front of a home crowd. The Aggies have gone seventh, sixth, fourth and sixth in the four years since they last hosted the conference tourney.

Junior attacker Madeline Sanchez scored four goals while junior goalie Niki Van Vugt tallied 14 saves to lift the fifth-seeded Matadors to a 5-3 win over the Gauchos in Saturday's opening matchup.

Impressively, Sanchez scored her entire offensive output while in foul trouble: she picked up two exclusions in the first 2:05 of the first quarter, and netted all four of her goals from the second through fourth frames. Brenna Thomas, Jenna Solberg and Kate Pipkin each had goals for UCSB, which managed to match CSUN goal-for-goal until late in the third.

The Matadors led 1-0 after the first quarter and 3-2 at halftime. Pipkin's goal with 5:40 left in the third equalized at 3-3, but Sanchez hit the go-ahead three minutes later. The CSUN junior, who leads the Big West in scoring, added the insurance goal in unlikely fashion: an illegal timeout call by UCSB put her at the five-meter stripe with 3:25 in fourth. She hit the penalty shot to set the board at 5-3.

Schaal Aquatics Center (Davis, Calif.)

No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (15-14) 0 2 1 0 - 3
No. 5 CSUN (12-20) 1 2 1 1 - 5

GOALS - UCSB: Brenna Thomas 1, Jenna Solberg 1, Kate Pipkin 1. CSUN: Madeline Sanchez 4, Katelyn Fairchild 1.

GOALIE SAVES - UCSB: Kenzi Snyder 7 (32:00). CSUN: Niki Van Vugt 14 (32:00).

No. 4 UC Davis (16-17) 0 0 2 0 - 2
No. 1 UC Irvine (22-6) 2 3 6 3 - 14

GOALS - UC DAVIS: Annie Kutt 1, Chloe Robinson 1. UCI: Mary Brooks 6, Kelsey Thornton 2, Keana Eldridge 1, McKenna Mitchell 1, Corinna Toledo 1, Cara Borkovec 1, Allie Loomis 1, Natalie Seidemann 1.

GOALIE SAVES - UC DAVIS: Avery Dotterer 6 (24:00), Caitlin Golding 0 (8:00). UCI: Annika Nelson 15 (29:30), Jenna Phreaner 2 (2:30).

No. 3 Long Beach State (18-11) 2 3 0 2 1 - 8
No. 2 Hawai'i (14-11) 0 4 1 2 0 - 7

GOALS - LBSU: Tori Morrissey 2, Christina Kotsia 2, Raney Remme 1, Maria Elena Mimidi 1, Virginia Smith 1, Alexandra Massier 1. UH: Claire Nixon 2, Irene Gonzalez 2, Chloe Barr 1, Maarte Keuning 1, Femke Aan 1.

GOALIE SAVES - LBSU: Eirini Patras 14 (38:00). UH: Ymane Hage 6 (38:00).