Rainbow Wahine Water Polo captures BWC Title, Clinches NCAA Tournament berth

UH Women's Water Polo, Big West Conference Champions // Hawaii Athletics
UH Women's Water Polo, Big West Conference Champions // Hawaii Athletics

IRVINE, Calif. – The top-seeded University of Hawai’i women’s water polo team defeated host and No. 2 seed UC Irvine 5-4 in a double-overtime thriller to capture the 2013 Big West Tournament Sunday afternoon at the Anteater Aquatics Center.  Tournament MVP Monika Eggens scored four goals for UH, including the game-winner with 44 seconds left in the second overtime period.

It was a historic day for the Rainbow Wahine (21-8) who won their first-ever conference tournament in its debut season in the Big West. With the win the Rainbow Wahine also locked up the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships which will be held May 10-12 in Boston. It will be UH’s fourth all-time appearance in the NCAAs and first since 2009.

UH’s eighth straight win didn’t come easy. The team’s locked into an epic battle for the third time this season with all three meetings decided by one goal. The match marked the second time the Rainbow Wahine defeated the Anteaters (21-9) at their home pool this season, the other being a 12-11 overtime win in the regular-season.

The Rainbow Wahine, who shared the regular-season title with the Anteaters, also ended UC Irvine’s stranglehold on the Big West Tournament championship. The Anteaters entered the weekend having won all four tournament titles since the event’s inception in 2009.

It was a tight, defensive match throughout with the teams tied 3-3 after three periods. UH took a 4-3 lead on an Eggen’s goal—her third of the match—with 4:26 remaining and looked poised to win the match in regulation, holding the ball with less than a minute remaining and a man up. But UH failed to capitalize and the Anteaters earned a power play of their own on the other end as Hannah Croghan scored with just eight seconds left to send the match into overtime.

Despite the crushing turn of events, the Rainbow Wahine held their composure during the ensuing pair of overtime periods. The teams went scoreless for nearly both three-minute periods of extra time, before freshman Paula Chillida Esforzado found Eggens near the mouth of the goal for the point-blank winner. UCI had one last possession but couldn’t convert as the Rainbow Wahine held on for the win.

The Rainbow Wahine will learn their first-round opponent in the eight-team NCAA Championship during a selection show broadcast beginning at 2:00 p.m. HT on NCAA.com.

Hawai’i  UC Irvine
April 28, 2013 at Anteater Aquatics Center
Irvine, Calif.

Scoring By Period
            1          2          3          4          O1       O2             
UCI     1          1          1          1          0          0      =          4
UH       1          1          1          1          0          1      =          5

UCI goals: Michaela Pierandozzi, Emily Carlson, Hillary Estrada, Hannah Croghan
UH goals: Monika Eggens (4), Emily Carr
Saves: UCI – Jillian Yocum (14); UH – Amy Carlson (7)

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