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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Championship dreams come to an end for UC Davis women’s water polo

Aggies fall to UC Irvine in Big West Quarterfinals

 

By LUCIENNE BROOKER — sports@theaggie.org

 

As rain clouds parted over Schaal Aquatics Center in Davis, the women’s water polo team entered the pool for their Big West Conference Quarterfinal match-up against UC Irvine. The Aggies and the Anteaters had faced off three times already during the 2024 season, with UC Irvine earning decisive victories in each match; the fourth encounter proved to be no different. 

Despite playing host for the entire tournament, the Aggies were seeded seventh out of eight teams after a rocky season. With only two conference wins, compared to five losses, the Aggies knew their road to the championship would be tough. 

In comparison, UC Irvine came into the conference tournament as the number two seed. They held a winning record of five victories and two losses in regular season play. With their stellar record, the Anteaters came into the playoffs with confidence. As the match went underway, the Aggies were able to open the scoring by jumping out to an early lead with a goal from third-year mechanical engineering major and attacker Gianna Nocetti. However, the Anteaters immediately responded to get themselves a point on the board and equalize the game. The first quarter of the match remained close, with each team scoring once more before the whistle blew. Second-year human development major and center Liberty Massman scored her 13th goal of the season. 

Moving into the second period of the match, UC Irvine saw their chance to pull ahead and take the lead, scoring three unanswered goals as soon as they hit the water. Hope wasn’t lost for the Aggies though, and Nocetti scored her second goal to cut the deficit to two going into halftime.

The third quarter was a bit more evenly matched, with each team again scoring two goals. Fourth-year communications major and utility player Grace Pelkey got on the scoreboard for the first time with Massman also converting again. Pelkey has shown her strong abilities this year finishing the season as the Aggies’ leading scorer with 37 goals. 

With only a two goal difference heading into the final quarter, the game was far from over as UC Irvine took a quick chance to restore their three goal lead. UC Davis responded with a goal by first-year undeclared major and center defender Chelsea Johnson, her 19th of the season. However, this final push didn’t prove to be enough and the Aggies were ultimately defeated 6-9.

This loss meant that the Aggies were eliminated from the Big West Conference Championship and had to remain spectators for the rest of the weekend. Semifinals took place the following day, on April 27. 

Although UC Irvine were the reigning 2023 champions, they promptly fell to third seeded Long Beach State 9-7. In the second semifinal, number one seeded University of Hawai’i defeated fourth seeded UC San Diego with a score of 17-10. 

The highly anticipated final match-up between Long Beach State and University of Hawai’i took place at noon on April 28. While Long Beach State had gotten through the tournament on a series of narrow victories, Hawai’i had been on a scoring roll they carried into the final. With a 9-5 Hawai’i win, the Rainbow Wāhine advanced to the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championships. They are scheduled to take on Princeton on May 10. 

As for the Aggies, their season ended sooner than they had hoped, but they’ll begin to look forward to the 2025 season, hopefully taking their program one step further. 

Written by: Lucienne Brooker — sports@theaggie.org

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