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'Eaters advance to final

Women's Water Polo

UCI holds Long Beach State to season-low scoring output in Big West tourney semifinal.

April 26, 2014|By Barry Faulkner

LONG BEACH — Water polo can be an inexact science, but when you play defense like the UC Irvine women's team, the math usually adds up in your favor.

The top-seeded Anteaters gave up just one goal each half against host Long Beach State on Saturday to earn a 5-2 victory in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament.

The win propelled the No. 6-ranked Anteaters (23-7) into Sunday's championship game against No, 9-ranked Cal State Northridge. The winner earns an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The loser, will almost surely see its season end.

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UCI, which has won five straight, 12 of its last 13, and has not lost in 11 contests against Big West rivals this season, entered the postseason looking like a solid bet to collect one of four at-large berths into the expanded 10-team NCAA Tournament, May 9-11 at USC.

But with No. 4-ranked Arizona State upsetting No. 2-ranked USC in the quarterfinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament on Friday, the Sun Devils' at-large resume trumps that of UCI, 'Eaters' Coach Dan Klatt said. That means that the four NCAA at-large berths are almost certainly to go to either top-ranked Stanford, USC, No. 3-ranked UCLA, Cal, which shares the No. 4 ranking, or ASU, with one of them also claiming the automatic berth that goes to the MPSF Tournament winner.

So perhaps it was added pressure, or maybe the consistently gusting wind that helped lead to some inexact shooting by the Anteaters early in Saturday's contest.

UCI, which missed its first 15 shots, had one-third of its 18 first-half shots carom off either one goal post or the crossbar. Two other UCI shots sailed either high or wide in the first half, which ended in a 1-1 deadlock.

Sophomore Emily Carson finally put UCI on the scoreboard with 1:41 left before halftime.

In all, UCI fired six shots off the crossbar and four more off a goal post, while seven of the 29 total shots went either high or wide of the cage. Four more were either deflected or blocked and nine were saved by 49ers goalie Kelly Ringel.

UCI goalie Jillian Yocum made seven saves, while senior Hannah Croghan spearheaded an oppressive defense with two field blocks and one of the 'Eaters' six steals.

Croghan also led UCI scorers with a pair of goals, the first coming with nearly a minute gone in the third quarter that gave UCI its first lead, 2-1. Her 154 career goals ranks No. 4 in UCI annals.

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