No.13 Long Beach State women’s water polo team battled tooth and nail against No.6 UC Irvine, but fell short 10-7 Thursday at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.
By knocking off Long Beach (15-13, 1-3 Big West), Irvine (18-8, 4-1 Big West) shared the Big West Conference regular season title with Hawai’i (16-5, 4-1). Since the Anteaters beat Hawai’i in the head-to-head matchup, they will be the No.1 seed going into the Big West Tournament next week, while the Rainbow Wahine will be the No.2 seed.
“I just think we had to play hard,” Anteaters head coach Dan Klatt said. “Long Beach always plays so hard and they play very disciplined. Really, I just think we got a couple more saves and a few more lucky shots.”
Long Beach never led, but tried to play spoiler to the Anteaters. After the game was tied at 1-1 in the first quarter, the Anteaters rattled off three straight goals to take a 4-1 lead at the end of quarter.
Both teams’ defense in the second quarter stepped up as only one goal was scored in the quarter. Senior attacker Tori Morrissey scored with 53 seconds left in the quarter to cut the Anteaters’ lead down to 4-2 entering halftime.
The Anteaters opened the third quarter by scoring the first two goals, giving them their biggest lead of the game at 6-2 at the 5:23 mark of the quarter. But Long Beach battled back, scoring the next three goals, with the third one coming from a behind-the-back goal coming from freshman defender Sarah Barker, cutting Irvine’s lead down to 6-5 going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was back and forth, as both teams kept exchanging goals. With Irvine leading 8-6 with 2:37 left in regulation, freshman attacker Orsi Hertzka made a five-meter penalty shot to cut the lead down to 8-7.
But the 49ers got no closer, as the Anteaters added two goals in the final two minutes to pull away from the 49ers and clinch a share of the conference title.
“They’ve proven year in and year out that they’re a great program and we knew we were going to have to play well to stay with them and we did,” said Long Beach head coach Gavin Arroyo .
Tara Prentice led Irvine with four goals while Jessica Lynch and Mary Brooks each had two goals. Piper Smith chipped in one goal for the Anteaters, who got seven saves from Morgan Jones.
Hertzka led the 49ers with three goals, while senior defender Annabel Harman added two goals. Barker and Morrissey each had one goal for Long Beach, which got eight saves from junior goalie Eirini Patras.
“Eirini played a great game in the goal,” Arroyo said. “Sometimes the goalies get overlooked. UCI’s got some tough shooters and she made a couple of them look pretty bad at times.”
After the game, Long Beach honored its four seniors, Morrissey, Harman, attacker Kate Yasko and attacker Keely Hamilton.