No. 3 University of California-Davis Manages No. 2 University of Michigan 7-6 to Advance to 2011 National Collegiate Club Championship Game

Laura Heddleston
Laura Heddleston

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- No. 3 University of California-Davis converted on six-of-nine man-advantage opportunities to edge No. 2 University of Michigan 7-6 in the semifinals of the 2011 Women's National Collegiate Club Championship at the University of Notre Dame.

The victory places the Aggies into their first National Collegiate Club Championship game as the Sierra Pacific Division champion will square off with three-time defending titleist and Pacific Coast Division champion California Polytechnic State University at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 8 for the national title.

For UC-Davis, the title game will be a new experience, but for six-time National Champion Cal Poly, which will appear in the program's ninth title game over the past 10 years, the championship experience is the norm.  During the past decade, the Mustangs have defeated Michigan State University (2003), Dartmouth College (2004, 2005), the University of Oregon (2008), Notre Dame (2009) and the University of Michigan (2010), while falling to Michigan State (2002) and Fresno State University (2007). 

This time out, Cal Poly will be seeking to become the first collegiate club program (men's or women's) to claim four consecutive titles as the current Mustangs look to snap a streak they share with the 2003-05 Cal Poly squads.

However, history may be on the side of the Aggies against Cal Poly as the Mustangs have only faced one Sierra Pacific squad in the title game, Fresno State, and fell to the Bulldogs when Oregon hosted thte 2007 tournament.

Further, this will not mark the first time the two teams have faced-off on a pool deck as the game is a rematch of a regular season tournament contest between the two teams as Cal Poly downed the Aggies 5-3 early in the season.

Now, in the final collegiate club contest of both teams' seasons, the question will be which program improved the most during the course of the season and will leave the home of the "Golden Dome" with the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) National Collegiate Club Championship plaque?

For UC-Davis, the path to the title game went through the Wolverines as the Aggies converted Michigan's mistakes into goals tallying five man-up scores and a five-meter penalty shot to account for six of the program's seven goals in the contest.

The Aggies jumped on the scoreboard with 4:37 left in the first period as Sarah Skinker (Fr., San Diego, Calif.) registered a man-up goal.  Michigan responded 12 seconds later with a skip shot by Milli Brown (Jr., Rockford, Mich.) to knot the game before Anne-Lise Maag (Gr., Menlo Park, Calif.) contributed a score at 1:32 to give the Wolverines a narrow 2-1 lead.

Michigan's lead grew to 3-1 prior to the end of the first quarter of play as Maag struck again with 51 seconds remaining on the period clock to put the Aggies in an early hole.

Following another goal by Brown to extend the Wolverines' advantage to 4-1 with 6:41 left in the second period, UC-Davis began to climb back into the game with Skinker and Kelley Oreglia (Sr., Camarillo, Calif.) converting on Wolverines' miscues for man-up goals at 5:57 and 35 seconds, respectively, to dice Michigan's lead down to 4-3 by the halftime intermission.

Michigan attempted to regain the score pad that it lost in the later half of the second period as Clio Finnegan (So., Ann Arbor, Mich.) posted her team's lone man-up conversion of the day with five minutes left in the third period, but the Aggies reeled off back-to-back scores to even the tallies at 5-to-5 with 3:32 on the clock.

Erika Leima (Gr., Pleasanton, Calif.) started the equalizing run with a line-drive shot at 4:34 before Emily Muniz (Gr., Saratoga, Calif.) netted another Aggies' man-up score at 3:32 to balance the scoreboard.

Muniz's goal was a turning point in the game for UC-Davis as the Aggies took their first lead of the game since Skinker's opening salvo when Player of the Game Tiffany Cheung (Jr., San Jose, Calif.) rattled the cage with a scoring-shot on a five-meter penalty at 2:59 to put UC-Davis in front 6-5.

The lead lasted for 29 seconds before Paula Finnegan (So., Ann Arbor, Mich.) beat UC-Davis goalie Laura Heddleston (Sr., Sacramento, Calif.) with 2:30 on the period clock to set the teams on even ground at 6-to-6 with 9:30 left in regulation during the third and fourth periods.

Needing a score to keep the Wolverines at bay until a potentially back-and-forth fourth period, Cheung delivered her team's final man-up goal and score of the day at the 1:18 mark to return the Aggies to a narrow 7-6 lead.

The goal turned out to be more decisive than anyone thought as neither team tallied much of anything in the fourth period combining for five timeouts along with an ejection on Leima with the clock winding down to the zero hour for the Wolverines' title hopes.

A critical component to UC-Davis' semi-upset of Michigan was the play of Heddleston, as the senior goalie turned away eight shots and kept the Michigan shooters at bay for most of the second half to allow her team to climb out of an early scoring hole and claim a shot at making history by ending the Mustangs' title reign.

For the Maize and Blue, Marley Andrews (So., Hudsonville, Mich.) also posted eight saves, while Brown and Maag led the Wolverines' offense with pairs of goals.

Michigan will not have an easy task in the third place game as the Wolverines will need to knock-off No. 5 University of Oregon at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. 

The Ducks, who fell to Cal Poly 7-1 in the other semifinal game, could seek a level of revenge against the Wolverines as Michigan defeated Oregon during the 2007 event by a 6-5 final before falling to eventual national champion Cal Poly by an 8-6 score in the tournament semifinals.

1 2 3 4 -- Final
No 3 University of California-Davis 1 2 4 0 -- 7
No. 2 University of Michigan
3 1 2 0 -- 6

Michigan Goals: Milli Brown (2); Anne-Lise Maag (2); Clio Finnegan; Paula Finnegan

UC-Davis Goals: Tiffany Cheung (2); Sarah Skinker (2); Erika Leima; Emily Muniz; Kelley Oreglia

Saves: Michigan - Marley Andrews (8) ; UC-Davis - Laura Heddleston (8)

Exclusions: Michigan - 9 ; UC-Davis - 5

Advantage Opportunities:  Michigan - 1-for-5 ; UC-Davis - 6-for-9

Sprints: Michigan - 1-for-4 ; UC-Davis - 3-for-4

Cards: None

Officials: Josh Kratz, Scott Voltz 

University of Michigan's Clio Finnegan, Marley Andrews & Angela Kurdys defend against UC-Davis

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