Saratoga, Calif.------ After one-sided losses to three teams ranked two through four in the Collegiate Water Polo Association's preseason poll, San Jose State University displayed its resiliency in a 10-9 win over UC Davis in the final match of the third annual LouStrong Invitational at West Valley College.
Sophomore Carla Toha Vilanova led the #14-Spartans (1-3) in scoring in the UC Davis match with three goals including what turned out to be the deciding goal at 2:04 of the third quarter just after a San Jose State power play. Toha Vilanova, the top freshman scorer in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with 53 goals last season, was scoreless in the team's first three matches against #2-ranked Stanford, #3-ranked UCLA and #4-ranked California.
"I was relieved. I felt like the team was working, not just for my goal, but for all the other goals for my teammates," Toha Vilanova said.
Seven San Jose State players scored in the win over the #17-ranked Aggies. Donia Momen had two goals. McKenna Yates, Cara Robinson, Sierra Painter, Tessa Draper and Michelle Taikeff scored once. For Yates and Draper, it was their first of the season.
Taikeff scored the match's most unlikely goal tossing a shot from near mid-pool at the UC Davis goal into the sun as the shot clock expired near the end of the second quarter.
"When I'm that far out and the clock is running down, I try to lob it cross cage, hope for the best and it went in. Every goal counts no matter what," said Taikeff about her goal that gave San Jose State a 6-3 lead with 1:37 to go before halftime.
Though UC Davis (0-3) tied the match at 6-6 and 7-7 in the third quarter, San Jose State (1-3) went ahead to stay on scores by Yates, Draper and Toha Vilanova to end the period ahead, 10-7.
"Everyone who came in really stepped up. It took teamwork and resiliency to play against the adversity to finish the game and get away with a win," said starter Sierra Painter, whose second-quarter goal gave San Jose State its biggest lead of the match, 5-1.
Though UC Davis scored nine goals, it was the fewest San Jose State allowed in its four-match opening weekend.
"It (the defense) improved a lot. We tried to take out their best player and we were able to stop her from scoring a lot of goals. They have a real good 2-meter player (Greta Kohlmoos, who scored once). That was part of our game plan," said San Jose State head coach Gabor Sarusi about the team's first win under his leadership.
Katelynn Thompson played the entire game as the Spartans goalkeeper and was credited with eight saves. She stopped a shot by UC Davis' Heather Johnson on the Aggies' final possession of the game to preserve the lead and the victory.
"It showed we weren't defeated mentally. We showed we were able to stick it out. We didn't have the mentality that we got destroyed by three teams," Taikeff said about the first three matches which included a 12-3 loss to #4-California (2-0) earlier in the day. "We fought through the entire (UC Davis) game no what the score came out to be. No matter how many times they scored in a row, we always fought back and we played a team game and that's why we won."
San Jose State returns to action, Saturday, January 28 playing two matches in the University of California's Speedo Mini tournament. The Spartans face Long Beach State at 9:00 a.m. and CSUN at 2:30 p.m.