ANN ARBOR, Mich — The seventh-ranked Anteaters (23-9) were finally able to break away from a resilient Indiana Hoosier squad (26-13) with a late surge to give UC-Irvine a 12-8 victory and fifth place in the NCAA Championship at Canham Natatorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The season finale was all set as seniors Cortney Collyer, Lauren Davis, and Caitlin Haskell took to the pool for their final match as Anteaters.
The teams traded off possessions until UC-Irvine got a power play opportunity and made the most of it. Collyer assisted to Danielle Warde who skipped a shot in. Indiana fired one wide, and the Anteaters ensuing possession was field-blocked wide. Indiana committed a foul, and the Anteaters would go on the attack and eventually a power play, but had the ball stolen. The Hoosiers got their own power play and would tie up the game, 1-1. Indiana would steal the ball back, but Davis would make a fine save. UC-Irvine went back on offense, but an entry pass was stolen. The Hoosiers would earn an exclusion, and their first shot was saved by Davis. Indiana would regain the ball, and earn a penalty, but Davis stoned their chance. Hillary Estrada lobbed one that was stopped. An Anteaters steal would lead to a chance, but Jessy Cardey would shoot one wide. The Anteaters would drive and get the ball to the middle. A scramble would give Michaela Pierandozzi a shot, but it was blown dead. UC-Irvine would eventually earn an exclusion, and Cardey would capitalize to get the lead back. UC-Irvine stole the ball back at the end of the quarter to take a 2-1 lead into the break.
Haskell would open the quarter with a shot attempt from the point that was knocked down. Indiana would respond, but flung a shot high. Warde had a power play shot saved. The ‘Eaters would get the ball back, but Cardey’s shot careened off the water and the bar just out. Davis made a firm save on the other end. Warde would extend the lead with a lob shot to make it 3-1. Davis bounded a shot straight up, and the rebound would give UC-Irvine another great chance that Kelsey Klatt would float in from the point, 4-1 UCI. UCI would stop another rush as Warde would complete the hat trick with a nifty goal from the point that skipped into the cage. Indiana could not find an open lane as they tossed a shot high. UC-Irvine had similar struggles managing a lob off the top of the cage. The Hoosiers would finally get a break with a 6-on-4 advantage and tighten the game, 5-2. Hannah Croghan shot one just wide, but Davis would steal it back. A tough shot off the bar for the Anteaters would lead to a breakout for the Hoosiers. After barring a shot out, the rebound was tipped away by Davis. Hannah Croghan lost the ball at mid-tank and soon thereafter be excluded leading to another Hoosier goal. Warde hoisted up a last-second shot as the Anteaters maintained the small margin, 5-3, into the half.
Haskell opened up the third quarter with a wide shot. A Hoosier shot was knocked away, and the ‘Eaters attacked and opened up the scoring with a smooth goal from Collyer. UC-Irvine would steal the ball back, but came up empty on a power play opportunity. Davis saved another Hoosier shot as Collyer barred out a power play shot on the other end. Klatt had consecutive shot knocked wide, and Indiana would answer with a deep goal to close the gap to 6-4. The teams would trade steals and field blocks including a pair of saves by Davis. Olivia Cummins would finally break the drought with a nice lob that was tipped in by the Indiana goalkeeper. The Hoosiers failed on a pair of attempts, and as time ran down, a beautiful entry pass was backhanded in by Estrada to get it to 8-4 after three quarters.
Collyer skipped in the opening shot to put the Anteaters up by five. Steals and offensive fouls finally gave way to Hannah Croghan with an odd-man opportunity, but she would bar out. The ‘Eaters responded with a field block. A Hoosier power play gave way to another goal with UC-Irvine still leading, 9-5. Indiana would quickly steal it back and go on the power play just as quickly. The Hoosiers would march down and score closing the gap once again. Klatt was stopped on a near-side shot. Indiana would find an opening and fight for another score inching back into it down 9-7. Indiana would steal the ball again and counter with a goal from the point making it just a one-goal game. UCI would stop the bleeding with a hard shot from the point by Warde, and the rebound would hit Estrada who responded with a forceful backhand in to stretch the lead to two. The Anteaters would steal the ball back to go back on offense. Collyer would find Katie Croghan on the doorstep with a one-time score and get a little breathing room with just over a minute to go. Indiana made a big push, but Davis would tip the ball off the crossbar and sweep it away from a Hoosier bearing down on her. UC-Irvine would run the clock down and Cardey would nail the door shut with a skip-shot goal to give them the 12-8 victory.
The Anteaters win equals their best win count and winning percentage at 23-9 equaling the 2009 Anteater squad. Also in the win, Danielle Warde picks up her 60th goal of the season becoming just the fourth Anteater to hit that mark in a single season. Jessy Cardey also extended her goal-scoring streak and tie a school record scoring now in 17 consecutive games.