The fifth-seeded Long Beach State women’s water polo team battled against fourth-seeded Santa Barbara, but fell 9-7 in the first round of the Big West Tournament at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center Friday.
The 49ers went on to defeat Northridge 7-6 to earn fifth place in Saturday’s tournament.
“Long Beach has a great team and we knew that they would come at us hard and we knew it would be a harder fight this week than last week,” Gauchos head coach Serela Kay said. “We came in focused on defense and keeping our composure, so I’m proud of how we responded.”
Long Beach never led, but gave Santa Barbara all they could handle. The Gauchos led 2-0 when the 49ers got their first goal of the game late in the opening quarter off of a six-on-five goal from freshman defender Sarah Barker.
Early in the second quarter, freshman attacker Orsi Hertzka evened the score at 2-2 and eventually, the two teams were tied at 3-3 near the halfway point of the quarter. But back-to-back goals from Kate Pipkin gave Santa Barbara a 5-3 lead going into halftime.
“We knew they were going to come out really strong and wanting a win as with every team in this conference,” Pipkin said. “We all backed each other extra and worked really hard preparing for their style of play and it carried over [into this game].”
The third quarter saw the two teams exchange goals, but the Gauchos stretched the lead back up to three. With Long Beach trailing 6-4, Pipkin scored her game-high third goal off of a five-meter penalty shot, giving the Gauchos a 7-4 heading into the final quarter.
The first minute of the fourth quarter saw three goals scored, as Santa Barbara led 8-6 after Hertzka made a penalty shot for the 49ers. But just like last quarter, the Gauchos had an answer each time their lead was two.
With Long Beach trailing 9-6, senior attacker Tori Morrissey scored off of a power play goal to cut the Gauchos’ lead down to 9-7. The 49ers eventually forced a turnover and tried to cut the lead down to one, but they were whistled for an offensive foul which turned the ball over to Santa Barbara.
“Every time, especially later in the game, when we’d score, we’d give up a goal right away and it’s really hard to try to build a comeback or build some momentum off that,” Long Beach head coach Gavin Arroyo said.
After Long Beach got the ball back, it tried to work the ball around for a decent shot, but it was saved by Kenzi Snyder, who had 16 saves for the Gauchos. The 49ers had another chance to cut Santa Barbara’s lead down to one with less than two minutes to play, but the pass was mishandled and the Gauchos recovered.
“We had our chances and we couldn’t execute, and their goalie played really well,” Arroyo said.
In addition to Pipkin’s three goals, Caitlyn Snyder had two goals for Santa Barbara. Sarah Snyder, Mollie Simmons, Kelly Murphy and Kate Coski each scored once for the Gauchos.
Hertzka and Morrissey led Long Beach with two goals while Barker, junior utility Maria Eleni Mimidi and senior defender Annabel Harman each had one goal. Junior goalie Eirini Patras made seven saves.