ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The No. 2-ranked Cal women’s water polo team, paced by junior Emily Csikos’ three goals and 11 saves from junior goalie Stephanie Peckham, defeated No. 3-ranked UCLA, 7-4, in the NCAA semifinal. The Golden Bears will now have the opportunity to play for the national title for the first time in school history when they face No. 1-ranked and Bay Area rival Stanford for the NCAA crown.
Cal took a 2-1 lead over UCLA after the first period on a pair of Csikos goals, and owned a 3-2 lead at the half on another Csikos goal. Both teams added two goals apiece in the third period. The Bruins’ Kelly Easterday tied the contest, 3-3, with a goal with 5:55 in the third period, but Cal recaptured the lead on junior Jessica Robinson’s score with 3:32 in the period. Again the Bruins were able to tie the match when KK Clark scored with 38 seconds left in the quarter for a 4-4 tally, but the Bears regained the advantage when freshman standout Kelly Mendoza scored as time expired in the third quarter.
From that point on it was all Cal as the Bears built on their 5-4 lead when junior Elizabeth McLaren mustered a goal with 4:39 left in the match, and Mendoza sealed the 7-4 win with her second goal of the contest at 3:39 left in the fourth period.
“The biggest thing for us was that today’s win was a huge team effort,” said Cal coach Richard Corso. “We have been able to play everyone on our squad the last two matches and that has been a key for us. I was real happy with how we played in the fourth period. UCLA had to work real hard to tie us in the third period and then we were able to finish it off with three straight goals. The kids are all fired up to play for the national championship. They are very, very excited because they know this is the first time ever that women’s water polo has the chance to win an NCAA crown and they know who important it is to the school.”
The Bears opened the NCAA tournament with 13-5 win over UC San Diego on Friday. Stanford advanced to the NCAA title match with an 8-4 win over USC in the other national semifinal. Cal has fallen twice to the Cardinal this season, 10-5, Feb. 5 at the Stanford Invitational, and 8-5, April 16 during an MPSF match at Spieker Aquatics Complex.