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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Aggies’ heartbreak in Big West Conference Tournament

Defense wins championships. The Aggies’ high-powered offense simply could not overcome the team’s defensive woes, losing the first-round contest to the nationally ranked UC Irvine Anteaters, 8-5. UC Davis then suffered a heartbreaking 10-9 loss at the hands of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The Aggies then wrapped up tournament play against Pacific on Sunday, thrashing the Tigers by the score of 10-4.

Entering the first-round matchup with the second-seeded Anteaters, the Aggies knew that they were going to face a tough team. In the second regular season meeting between the two teams, UC Davis gave up a last-second score to give UC Irvine the 7-6 win. Thus, this game seemed to be one of the most exciting matchups of the Big West tournament.

However, the matchup was never really that close. The Anteaters took an early lead and never looked back. With goals from freshman Kelsey Thornton and junior Hilary Estrada, UC Irvine jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The lead blossomed even more in the second quarter, as the Anteaters scored four goals in the quarter. They went into halftime leading 6-2, with the two Aggies’ goals scored by senior Kathryn Bailey and junior Hannah Curran.

The Aggies did make a late comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, as they scored two goals and shutout the Anteaters. The goals by senior Riane Woods and sophomore Paige Oreglia helped UC Davis claw back to the 8-5 score. However, it was too little and too late.

On Saturday’s game, in the loser’s bracket of the conference tournament, the Aggies faced off with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The Aggies’ leading scorers, seniors Carmen Eggert and Jessica Dunn, both had hat-tricks. UC Davis seemed to be in good position to close out the win with a 6-4 lead heading into halftime.

The Aggies started the third quarter of scoring and increasing their lead. With an Eggert goal, UC Davis gained a commanding 7-4 lead. The teams then traded goals, with a goal by UC Santa Barbara’s freshman Samantha Murphy and a goal by UC Davis’ senior Kathryn Bailey. UC Davis, however, still maintained a three-goal lead.

However, from there, it went downhill, as the Aggies allowed the Gauchos to score five of the last six goals. UC Santa Barbara clawed their way in front of UC Davis midway through the fourth quarter. However, a clutch goal by Dunn tied the game up with only 4:11 remaining in the game and finished Dunn’s hat-trick.

In the end, UC Santa Barbara had too much momentum. Their incredible rally was capped off the game-winning goal by senior Shelby Haroldson with only three minutes left in the game. The Aggies’ once again suffered heartbreak in the tournament, losing by the final score of 10-9.

“We wanted to finish the season strong. Here’s a team that is ranked seventh nationally and we have an opportunity to play them,” said head coach Jamey Wright. “We played a great three and a half quarters but we just couldn’t close it out.”

In the last game of the season for the Aggies, they faced off against Pacific. UC Davis closed out their season strong, with the help of a five-goal performance by Eggert.

“Today we just came out and just got up on them 2-0, then 4-2. The second quarter was just the killer for them. We went on a 7-0 run to seal the game,” Wright said.

The impressive 7-0 run occurred during the second and third quarters, and definitely put the game out of reach for the Tigers. This solid win marked the end of six seniors’ water polo careers at UC Davis: Eggert, Woods, Dunn, Hannah Breen and Danelle Kenny.

However, there is something to look forward to in the future, as the underclassmen did play pretty well against Pacific.

“I was impressed with the freshmen play. I put in three freshmen during the run and they played well. Since we played a lot of tight games this year, the freshmen did not have the opportunity to play a lot of minutes. But in today’s game I was proud of how they played.”

The Aggies end their season with an overall record of 15-17. They also finished 18th in the national rankings.

KENNETH LING can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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