Women's Water Polo: Pacific Opens Big West Tournament Against UCSB Friday
Fresh off a commanding win in its regular season finale, the Pacific women's water polo team will begin postseason play Friday, April 27, when it takes on UC Santa Barbara in a quarterfinal match at 5:15 p.m. as part of the Big West Tournament at UC Davis.
Pacific (11-16, 1-4 Big West) finished conference play in a three-way tie for fourth place, but will enter the league tournament as the sixth seed due to the goal differential tiebreaker rule used by the conference. UC Santa Barbara (19-13, 3-2 BWC) enters Friday's tilt as the tournament's third seed.
"We expect a close game on Friday," Pacific head coach Megan Thomson said. "We've spent the week building on the things we did well in that game and working on the things we didn't do as well. It was a one-point game last time and we're expecting the same this time around."
The Gauchos narrowly defeated the Tigers in the team's lone match this season, escaping Kjeldsen Pool with an 8-7 win. Pacific got a game-high four goals from senior Kim Kay while freshman Brydie Pye recorded her second hat trick in as many games. UCSB led 5-2 at halftime before Kay scored all three of Pacific's third quarter goals, trimming the Gauchos' lead to two, 7-5, entering the final frame. The Tigers would draw to within one, 7-6, on Pye's goal early in the period but would be shut out for the remainder of the quarter until Kay's goal with 28 seconds left. Sophomore goalkeeper Michele Relton blocked eight shots in four quarters of work.
Pacific is coming off a 7-4 win over Santa Clara last Saturday in which the outcome was never in doubt. The match saw six different Tigers score, led by Pye's two-goal outing. She has now scored eight goals in her last three games. Relton finished the match with eight saves, moving her into sole possession of second on the school's all-time career saves list with 601.
"The win over Santa Clara was a good win," Thomson said. "It was nice to send out seniors out on top and take us into the conference tournament on a high note. Michele moving into second on the all-time saves list is just a phenomenal accomplishment. What's even better is that she never mentions her stats. She just goes out there and plays hard every day."
UC Santa Barbara wrapped up its regular season with its win over Pacific. The Gauchos finished the year strong, winning nine of their last 13 matches. UCSB posts a very balanced offensive attack with seven different players owning at least 20 goals. Molly Hafferkamp leads the team with 33 goals while Kacey Creek has 32 on the year. Goalkeeper Ruth Milne has started every game for the Gauchos, recording 350 blocks while allowing just 7.3 goals per game.
The other quarterfinal will see fourth-seeded Cal State Northridge square off against fifth-seeded Long Beach State. Top seed UC Irvine and host and second seed UC Davis receive byes into the semifinal round. If Pacific defeats UC Santa Barbara, the Tigers will play UC Davis Saturday, April 28, at 4:15 p.m. The winner of that game will play for the tournament title Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m.
"Historically the Big West has always been close," noted Thomson. "The winner of this year's tournament will be whichever team can put together two or three good games in a row. Mistakes will also be crucial, especially because anybody can beat anybody in a league this close."