The No.13 Long Beach State women’s water polo team (15-14, 1-4 Big West) battled all game using a strong defensive effort but fell short in its regular season finale, falling on the road to No.11 Santa Barbara 6-3 (20-7, 3-2) on Saturday.
The game started out a low-scoring affair as both teams found the back of the net once in the opening quarter. Freshman attacker and goal leader for Long Beach Orsi Hertzka scored the first goal of the game at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter.
Long Beach’s defense was stout in the second quarter, keeping Santa Barbara off the scoreboard. Junior utility Maria Eleni Mimidi gave the 49ers a 2-1 lead going into halftime at the 3:14 mark of the second quarter.
The Gauchos’ defense clamped down on the 49ers, as they were held scoreless in the third quarter. Long Beach’s defense didn’t back down from the challenge despite giving up a five-meter goal, as both teams went into the fourth quarter tied 2-2.
Santa Barbara caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring on its first three offensive possessions, giving the 49ers a 5-2 lead. While the offense clicked on all cylinders, the defense kept Long Beach off the board for the most part.
The Gauchos’ lead grew to 6-2 until the 2:48 mark of the quarter, where Hertzka, who led Long Beach in goals, scored at the 2:48 mark of the quarter, ending a drought that lasted 16:26 from the second quarter. But by the time Hertzka scored, Long Beach was down 6-3 and was unable to comeback.
Junior goalie Eirini Patras anchored Long Beach’s defense with eight saves and four steals.
Kate Pipkin led Santa Barbara with two goals while Shannon Moran, Sarah Snyder, Sarah Kreiser and Mollie Simmons each scored once. Kenzi Snyder made nine saves for the Gauchos.
Long Beach finished conference play in fifth place, ahead of last place Northridge while Santa Barbara finished tied for third with Davis. Hawai’i and Irvine tied for first for the regular season conference title and the two will be seeded second and first in the up and coming Big West Tournament, having earned first round byes.
Long Beach will look to end its four-game losing streak, as it plays Santa Barbara in the first round of the tournament Friday at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center at 1 p.m.