Defense Defends League Title
Defense carries women's water polo to second straight GCC title, 11th conference crown since 2001.
STOCKTON, Calif. - It was all about defense for the LMU women's water polo program in building its championship tradition. And their defense led them back to the top of the Golden Coast Conference.
Behind smothering defense, the third-seeded Lions captured the 2015 GCC Championship with a 9-5 victory over top seed and 16th-ranked San Diego State Saturday at Pacific's Chris Kjeldsen Pool.
"Strong goal play and swarming defense has been a staple of LMU water polo for years, and it once again led us to a conference title," said Head Coach Kyle Witt. "I am so proud of this group, they lived up to that tradition. That was our best defensive effort in a championship game in quite some time."
All-Tournament Team goalkeeper Jordan White made eight saves and held opponents to just eight goals in the last eight quarters of the tournament. Ivana Castro and Laura Lopez each posted hat tricks for LMU, who concludes their season with their 11th conference title since 2001 and first back-to-back crowns since 2009-10.
"I have been saying it all week, our championship experience, led by our seniors, was huge for us," said Witt. The Lions have played in 16 straight conference title games. "We remained composed through all three games and we ran our game plans very well. I am very proud of this team."
San Diego State's (17-15) Carina Carballo and the Lions' Kiana Etrata traded first-quarter goals. In the second quarter, Ashtynn Nelson put LMU up with a 6-on-5 goal, and Castro provided a 3-1 margin for LMU.
"This was a team effort from top to bottom," said Witt. "We showed that anyone in our line-up was capable of taking advantage of opportunities by running our game plan and it was a huge difference today."
Bridgette Alvarez and Lopez opened the third quarter with goals, pushing the lead to 5-1. Alyssa Diacono muscled home a goal from center for SDSU, but Castro responded with a deep goal to the upper right to restore the four-goal lead.
Nikole Ferrari cut the gap to 6-3, but White made a save on SDSU in transition on back-to-back possessions as the Lions carried the three-goal advantage into the fourth quarter.
Castro's third goal with 6:25 brought the lead back to four goals before Caroline Israels kept the Aztecs alive with 4:31 to go. But the Lopez scored twice in the fourth quarter to keep the Aztecs at arms-length. Ioli Benekou added a late go for the Aztecs before the Lions ran the clock out to capture their second GCC title.
Mackenzie Beck earned Tournament MVP honors with nine goals in three games. She, along with White and Castro, were named GCC All-Tournament.
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