Waterpolo rebounds with big tourney

    The UCSD men’s waterpolo team began with a tough loss last week at Loyola Marymount University before catching fire over the weekend and winning all four of its games at the West Meets East Tournament at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

    At week’s end, the Tritons had improved their record to an impressive 14-4.

    Head coach Denny Harper was especially pleased with his team’s performance last week because it played without two of its top three scorers: Brett Allen and Vladimir Djapic.

    “”I’m totally happy with how the team played in all five games,”” Harper said. “”We didn’t have time to prepare for [Allen and Djapic] being out. They were game-day decisions on Thursday morning. The team did phenomenally to respond to those two being out.””

    UCSD, which entered the week ranked No. 8 in the nation, dropped its second-straight match on a 7-6 heartbreaking loss to the Lions on Oct. 29 at Burns Aquatic Center.

    “”I would say that we did well, only losing by one at their pool,”” Harper said.

    LMU, which was the No. 9-ranked team in the nation amd entered the match with a 9-11 record, took the early lead with a pair of goals in the first period. Kevin Witt and Scott Smith each found the net for the Lions. The Tritons only managed a single goal in the first quarter, which came from Jonathan Samuels.

    UCSD took a proverbial shot in the mouth in the second quarter when LMU exploded with four goals while the Tritons could only manage a single score. Kyle Witt, Stephen Lipinski, Tamas Szego and Smith all scored in the period for the Lions. Kevin Smoker scored his only goal of the match in the second quarter for UCSD.

    “”We didn’t play particularly well in the first half,”” Harper said. “”We played much better in the second half.””

    The Tritons battled back in the third quarter, outscoring their hosts by a score of 3-1. Bryon Spicer, Brandon Borso and Samuels each contributed a score. Kris Barr was the only LMU player to score in the second half.

    A single goal in the final quarter from Jonathan Hopkins brought the Tritons to within one at 7-6, but that would be all that the team could manage.

    Kevin Paulsen recorded 10 saves for the Lions.

    UCSD faired much better in the West Meets East Tournament, which took place Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, winning its matches against UC Davis, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and California Baptist University.

    The Tritons played well despite the conditions that they had to play in. Harper said that playing at the Air Force Academy is one of the hardest places to play a match on the road.

    “”That is a really tough tournament to play in,”” Harper said. “”It is really difficult to play there because it is at 7,200 feet and is an indoor pool. It is tough to breathe.””

    In their games on Oct. 27, the Tritons dismantled the Aggies 9-3 before squeaking past the Midshipmen with a 8-7 double-overtime win.

    Oct. 28 brought matches against California Baptist University and tournament host Air Force Academy. UCSD had a narrow 7-5 victory over California Baptist University before capping off the tournament by easily beating its host by a final of 8-3.

    The Tritons had an exhibition match against the U.S. National Team Tuesday night. According to Harper, the game came together at almost the last minute.

    Harper said, UCSD played the national team tough and kept the match close early on, but fatigue finally set in as the national team pulled away for a convincing 15-5 victory.

    Harper was impressed with the way his team played under the conditions.

    “”We played them well early on,”” Harper said. “”We just got tired. I would have liked to have had another day or two to rest our guys after the tournament, but it just didn’t work out. You have to give them credit though, they are very good.””

    The Tritons’ next match will be against UC Irvine on Sunday. UCSD will travel to Irvine to battle the Anteaters. The match is scheduled to begin at noon.

    Djapic will be back for that match while Allen’s return is hopeful, according to Harper. Allen is currently awaiting results on an MRI. The team expects him back for the match against UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 11 at the latest.

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