UCSD Water Polo Places Third

The UCSD women’s water polo team finished third in the Women’s Western Water Polo Association Championship tournament on Sunday, beating the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners 9-5 to wrap up their home season at Canyonview Pool. Loyola Marymount University, the winner of the UCSD-hosted three-day tournament, advanced to semifinal berth in the NCAA Championship tournament.

Tyler Huff

Sunday’s game against Bakersfield followed a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to UC Davis the day before. It forced the third-seeded Tritons into the consolation game for third place, while Davis advanced to contend for the NCAA berth. While the Tritons had led the game 3-2 going into the final quarter, Davis’ three goals put them over the top as UCSD managed only one goal in response. Leading the Tritons in that game were Dana Tucker and Samara Silverman, who had two goals each.

“”We played really well, but in the final quarter we had a lot of opportunities but did not convert them,”” head coach Larry Sanders said, “”That’s kind of been our MO all year.””

The disappointed Tritons returned to the pool the next day to battle the Roadrunners in what proved to be a physical game. The Tritons controlled the flow of play with a number of steals, and often forced Bakersfield to run down the shot clock. While the Roadrunners could not get outside shots off, their inside set player, Dawn Rodriquez, scored two goals, surpassing the one goal by Emma Kudritzki for the Tritons.

They again had trouble converting their offensive opportunities, in spite of numerous penalties against the physical Roadrunners, who were getting sent to the penatly box as fast as they could rejoin the game. By the end of the second quarter, the Tritons’ Courtney Hemmerly had scored a goal to bring the Tritons to a tie.

After halftime, the Triton offense started to dominate the game, scoring three goals in the quarter while Bakersfield continued to take penalty calls from the referees. UCSD still had trouble converting these offensive opportunities during this quarter. Only in the forth, by using time outs to set up their offense after Bakersfield had lost players to penalties. Although the Roadrunners opened the quarter with a goal, the Tritons immediately responded with an inside tally of its own by Tucker. After UCSD took the lead 4-3 later in the quarter, Bakersfield called a time out to set up a special play, only to see it work against them as UCSD beat them to the other end of the pool and score another goal. By the end of the quarter, UCSD held a narrow lead of 5-4.

UCSD scored four goals in a row in the fourth. The increasingly desperate Roadrunners commited more fouls and watched two of their players get ejected for the rest of the game as Rodriquez scored one more goal to end the game, 9-5.

While assistant head coach Robin Bregman attributed the team’s initial flat play as “”discouragement”” after the loss to Davis the day before, “”the fact that we have lots of team speed, and we played with such depth – a total of 14 players”” eventually overcame the smaller, slower Roadrunner team of only 12. Sanders called the failure of many offensive opportunities the Tritons’ “”Achilles Heel – its been our weakness all year. When we get man-up opportunities, we convert about 30 percent of the time, and to win you need to be 50, 60… It’s been frustating all year to lose to strong Division I teams by only one or two goals after leading going into the final quarter because we need to put the ball in the cage on our opportunities.””

Nonetheless, Sanders was very pleased overall: “”We had a great season, going 20-13, beat some very strong Division I teams like 5th-ranked nationally Cal State San Jose, and I believe we can come back even better next year from learning from our close losses,”” Sanders said, pointing out that the team had only one player graduating.