April 22, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. -
The 2014 UC Davis women's water polo season reaches its culminating point in the form of the sixth-annual Big West Conference tournament, hosted by Long Beach State on Friday through Sunday. The six-team field features four teams ranked in last Wednesday's national top 10, plus No. 15 UC Santa Barbara and the No. 17 Aggies.
UC Davis opens with No. 8 Hawai'i in the second of Friday's two quarterfinals. Fourth-seeded Long Beach State and fifth-seeded UC Santa Barbara will square off in the tourney opener. The advancing teams will take on UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge, which earned quarterfinal byes.
The Aggies' matchup represents a good-news/bad-news proposition. On the one hand, the No. 8 Rainbow Wahine stands as one of the two toughest No. 3 seeds in the tournament's history, based on the national coaches' poll. San Diego State held a No. 8 national ranking as the third seed in last year's tourney. The only other time a national Top 10 team took on the tourney's sixth seed was the inaugural 2009 championship, when then No. 10 UC Irvine dispatched Long Beach State. The Anteaters only fell to that seed due to a coin flip: UC Davis, Cal State Northridge and UCI finished in a flat-footed tie during that regular season.
The silver lining for head coach Jamey Wright is that his Aggie team has enjoyed two of its better performances against the Wahine this season. At the Stanford Invitational on February 2, junior Keelia Houston scored a hat trick while sophomore Ariel Arcidiacono added two goals as UC Davis nearly erased an early deficit in an upset bid against then No. 6 UH. The Aggies lost that contest by a 9-8 final, but Wright commended his team's comeback effort.
"I thought the second, third and fourth quarters of that game we played up to our potential," said Wright. "We certainly showed that we can play with them or even better. Then we played them at their place, and it stayed a one-possession game the whole way through. That helps our confidence going into the Big West tournament.
In that Big West Conference game, UC Davis held the Bows' unconventional motion offense to five goals, an output only matched by UCLA, Stanford and UC Irvine this season. Senior Hannah Curran netted two goals in the one-goal loss, while junior goalkeeper Jillian Wilding notched a career-high 14 saves.
"Certainly, they're a great team and things will have to work out well for us, but I feel like this team has the ability and the fitness level," Wright said. "We got back in the game because of our counters the first time we played them. We don't have to play a perfect game. We just have to play as well as we're capable of."
Hawai'i (17-9, 3-2) has not played since the UC Davis-Cal State Monterey Bay weekend on April 13. Sophomore Paula Chillida Esforzado, a veteran of Spain's senior national team, leads the Wahine with 49 goals and 38 assists. Senior utility Danielle Lewis has 44 goals with 38 steals. The centerpiece of the UH defense is senior goalkeeper Amy Carlson, whose 183 saves against just 78 goals gives her a glittering .701 GAA.
"I think the team understands the urgency of this game," Wright said. "We can't wait until the fourth quarter. We talked about that going into the second Hawai'i game because we didn't start well the first time we played them. They scored on the first possession but they didn't score on the next nine. We understand that we have to start the game well. We don't have to fly out to Hawai'i, they're flying out here. So anything can happen, and I feel good about where we are."
SKIP SHOTS: Hannah Curran's hat trick vs. Santa Clara raised her career total to 102, making her the 15th player in school history to crack the century mark... Sophomore Ariel Arcidiacono had three assists in Saturday's home finale, bringing her team-leading season total to 34.. She now ranks t7th on the school season list with Christi Raycraft (2006) and Ariel Feeney (2012)... Next on the leaderboard are Mary Lowe (35 in 2008), Keelia Houston (36 in 2013) and Erin Schlueter (38 in 2013)... Allyson Hansen has drawn 69 total exclusions (60 majors, 9 five-meter), putting her 4th in program history.
A GLANCE AT THE REMAINING FIELD: UC IRVINE (22-7, 5-0) ran the table during the Big West season to score its fifth regular-season title and the tourney's top seed... Leading scorers Danielle Warde (53 goals) and Jessy Cardey (49) each netted nine goals in three games against Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount last week... The Anteaters have advanced to all five Big West title games, winning the first four before Hawai'i ended the streak in a 5-4 battle in 2013... CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE (22-8, 3-2) snagged the tiebreaker for the No. 2 seed by virtue of its overtime win over Hawai'i on April 4... The Matadors achieved their highest national ranking (7th) in program history earlier this year, and have managed to remain in the top 10 ever since... However, CSUN suffered an 8-7 upset at the hands of 15th-ranked UCSB on Friday to close its conference season... Junior Marisa Young paces the Matadors (and the conference) with 60 goals with senior Lindsy Duncan close behind with 49 goals and 45 assists... LONG BEACH STATE (18-10, 2-3) claimed the tiebreaker for the No. 4 seed thanks to a 9-5 win over UC Santa Barbara on April 13... Senior defender Coriann Snyder leads the 49ers with 48 goals, one ahead of attacker Chelsea Parks... Goalkeeper Kelly Ringel has 157 saves and a stingy 6.30 GAA, the best among Big West starters... UC SANTA BARBARA (11-14, 2-3) broke a three-game losing skid with Friday's 8-7 upset of No. 9 CSUN... The Gauchos won two of its three 2014 meetings with UC Davis, mostly recently the 7-4 Big West matchup on March 29... Sophomore Jessie Porter scored seven goals in UCSB's 11-9 victory at the UCI Invite on Feb. 22.