DAVIS, Calif. - After a thrilling overtime battle against No. 4 Hawai’i, UC Davis women’s water polo heads into its final regular-season road action of the year with Big West Conference games at No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday and No. 25 CSUN on Sunday.The ninth-ranked Aggies look to forge their seeding in the league tournament at the end of the month. Saturday’s game particularly provides a sneak preview for the Big West championship, as UCSB will host the event. UC Davis still looks for its first league win after setbacks against LBSU and Hawai’i to begin the spring quarter.
As is the case for any matchup in the Big West, the Aggies will look for a tight matchup with both teams, with little margin of error. In the last eight UC Davis-UCSB meetings, the Gauchos have won six, with five games settled by two goals or fewer. UC Davis fared better against CSUN, including a 10-5 win earlier this year, but the last three trips to Matador have gone down to the wire: one-goal losses in 2013 and 2011, and an overtime win in 2009.
The Aggies never trailed in regulation in Saturday’s loss to Hawai’i, falling behind briefly in overtime before Bryn Lutz’ heroics put her team back in the hunt. She scored back-to-back goals with a steal and a blocked shot to even the score to 9-9 and force the sudden-victory period. Wahine center and eventual Big West Player of the Week Nikki-Marie Bell ultimately captured the game with her game-winner, but the overall game showcased UC Davis’ strengths from end to end: offensive firepower at both two meters and the perimeter, effective countering and defense, and adept goalkeeping.
All of UC Davis’ leading scorers – Lutz, junior Carla Tocchini, senior Allyson Hansen and junior Hannah Harvey – contributed at least two points in Saturday’s game, while another center, sophomore Greta Kohlmoos notched her first multi-goal game since the Stanford Invitational. The Aggies also afforded themselves opportunities, with Tocchini and Hansen drawing eight of the 11 power players in the contest. However, Hansen was the only one to successfully convert a 6-on-5 (which Tocchini created), a stat that head coach Jamey Wright will certainly like to see improved in the remaining Big West contests.
UC SANTA BARBARA (12-11, 0-1) saw its 4-2 halftime lead slip away to an 8-5 loss at UC Irvine in the Gauchos first action in almost two weeks. Fifth-year center Lauren Martin and senior attacker Bryn Hudson each scored two goals while senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw tallied a season-best 16 saves. Yet another senior, Samantha Murphy, turned in two assists in the loss. Overall, five players have at least 40 points this year: Hudson (32-34-66), junior Taylor Shore (39-18-57), Murphy (28-27-55), junior Miranda Schrader (27-19-46) and Martin (40-3-43).
CSUN (10-16, 0-2) dropped its first two Big West contests over the weekend, falling to UC Riverside and Long Beach State by six-goal margins in each. Sophomore attacker Madeleine Sanchez has enjoyed a monstrous season on the stat sheet: 62 goals and 38 assists for 100 total points, plus 48 steals on defense. She netted four against the No. 6 Anteaters in Saturday’s loss. Sophomore senior Amy Yule has another 39 goals and a .494 shooting average. The Matadors field a young sophomore-heavy squad with only three seniors.
Both Saturday and Sunday contests begin at 1 p.m.
SKIP SHOTS: Senior center Allyson Hansen still needs another 10 goals before she catches Katherine O’Rourke for fifth (154) on the UC Davis career list, but just two points separates her from Keelia Houston for sixth (203) on the career points leaderboard... She also passed Christi Raycraft for second in career drawn exclusions... Hansen had five plus a drawn five-meter at Hawai’i to bring her season total to 52 and career sum to 224... Unlikely, however, that she can catch up to Dakotah Mohr’s school mark of 301 with at most 10 games remaining on the schedule... Speaking of milestones, senior Ariel Arcidiacono approaches the career top 10 in assists... With 20 in 23 games, she needs eight to join the tie for 10th currently held by Lindsay Kiyama and Nicole Lorrimer.