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LBSU enters Big West women’s water polo tournament with plenty to prove

The 49ers enter the weekend as a No. 1 seed, but with underdog status.

LBSU+utility+Virginia+Smith+looks+for+a+teammate+to+pass+to+during+the+49ers%E2%80%99+7-6+win+over+UC+Santa+Barbara+on+Saturday+at+the+Ken+Lindgren+Aquatics+Center.
LBSU utility Virginia Smith looks for a teammate to pass to during the 49ers’ 7-6 win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.

LBSU utility Virginia Smith looks for a teammate to pass to during the 49ers’ 7-6 win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.

Bobby Yagake | Daily 49er

Bobby Yagake | Daily 49er

LBSU utility Virginia Smith looks for a teammate to pass to during the 49ers’ 7-6 win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.

Jason Enns, Staff Writer

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The No. 1 Long Beach State women’s water polo team heads to Santa Barbara this weekend for the Big West Tournament in hopes to prove to the competition LBSU’s conference title was no accident.

After winning only two out of eight games in their first two tournaments, LBSU began to fall into their rhythm ending the regular season with an overall record of 17-10 and 4-1 in the Big West.

“We’re the No. 1 seed and with that comes expectations,” Head coach Gavin Arroyo said. “It’s foreign territory for us, so we have to figure out a way to handle that. We’re coming in as the favorite and I think that changes a little bit [of] your dispositions.”

The 49ers would like to think they’ve proven their worth after losing only three games in the past eight weeks, but according to the players, LBSU still isn’t taken seriously by their competition.

“Even though we’re first place in conference we’re still the underdogs,” senior center Emily Matheson said. “I think we still have a lot to prove, like we know we’re great but [the Big West teams] need to know too– they underestimate us still.”

The 49ers will play the winner of Friday’s game between University of Hawaii and UC Davis, and with only one game after that before the season’s end, this is the players’ last chance to gain the recognition they feel they deserve.

“[We want] to prove ourselves worthy,” LBSU senior attacker Leigh Auth said. “Honestly, I feel like every game we go to it’s, ‘Oh, we’re playing Long Beach, it’s going to be an easy win.’”

LBSU is looking to dispose of that assumption, and maybe a Big West tournament cup will do it.

“Every time we win it’s ‘Long Beach upsets,’ literally every title of every article,” sophomore center Emily Garczynski said. “We want to prove that our wins aren’t upsets. We want to figure out how many wins it takes until it’s not an upset.”

The 49ers’ only conference loss was in Irvine, where UC Irvine defeated LBSU by a single goal.

“I personally believe that not winning that game was really good for us mentally because it gave us the idea that we still can lose,” Garczynski said. “I don’t want to say we weren’t [confident] going into Santa Barbara, but we were definitely thinking, ‘we have something to prove.’”

Garczynski ended up scoring the game winning shot against UC Santa Barbara, which was a game she felt encapsulated the reason for LBSU’s success this season.

“We were behind for the first half and then we all kind of looked at each other and said ‘we can do this,’” Garczynski said. “We’re not playing as individual players, we’re playing as a team.”

It is likely they could compete against Irvine again in the final game of the year, a game the 49ers say they’re ready for.

“We know what do now and we can be a lot smarter about it,” Matheson said. “We can definitely do better [defending] the drives.”

To which Garczynski added, “If we see [Irvine] again in this tournament we’re going to come out ten times harder than we would against any other team just because we have that to prove.”

LBSU’s first game will be at noon on Saturday at UC Santa Barbara.

“It is championship weekend and the stakes are obviously hire and I just want to have the girls enjoy every minute of it, because they deserve a good experience,” Arroyo said.  “Win or lose, whatever the outcome may be, the art of war and enjoying the battle is what I’m looking forward to.”

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