SDSU wins inaugural Harper trophy

    The UCSD women’s water polo team played its final home game of the season Friday against fifth-ranked San Diego State University in a last-preparation effort for the Western Water Polo Association Conference Tournament. The game marked the inauguration of the annual season-end battle between the cross town rivals for the Denny Harper Trophy.

    Scott Thomas
    Guardian

    Both UCSD women’s water polo head coach Larry Sanders and SDSU head coach Carin Crawford studied under Harper, the current UCSD men’s water polo head coach. Adding to a recent rivalry brewing between the two teams over the past few years, the matchup has become more intense than ever before.

    “”There’s a certain respect between [UCSD and SDSU],”” Sanders said. “”We might not like each other necessarily, but we highly respect each other.””

    The two teams had already played each other twice this season. The Tritons were victorious in the first match Feb. 10 with a 5-4 victory at Canyonview Pool, but March 17 the Aztecs exacted revenge on UCSD by reversing the decision with their own 5-4 win.

    Scott Thomas
    Guardian

    Both teams were coming off solid results from the Long Beach State University Invitational. The Tritons finished third, and SDSU was the runner-up to winner University of Southern California.

    Before the opening tip-off, UCSD honored graduating seniors Emma Kudritzki and Courtney Hemmerly with bouquets of flowers and a warm reception.

    Both are pivotal assets to this powerful Triton team. Kudritzki is a Division II All-American and two-time All-WWPA selection while Hemmerly is a four-year starter who averaged 29 goals per season during her career.

    The Tritons jumped ahead early with goals by Kudritzki and juniors Dana Tucker and Samara Silverman for a 5-2 halftime lead. Aztec junior Amber Prestegard accounted for the two SDSU goals in the first half.

    After Silverman added another goal to make the score 6-3 in the third period, SDSU quietly halted the Triton offensive attack. Prestegard and sophomore Holly Hartzell each tallied a goal, and UCSD’s lead quickly shrank to a single goal with a 6-5 lead heading into the final period.

    The teams struggled to find the back of the cage in the fourth period, but the Aztecs’ pressure defense contained the Tritons and SDSU took the lead for the first time with two goals by Hartzell, including a controversial allowed goal by the referee late in the period. The Tritons seemingly tied the game with less than a minute left, but a two-meter penalty overturned the score.

    With 12.4 seconds left in the game, UCSD had a late break with a penalty shot awarded after Hemmerly broke free from her defender and had a one-on-one with goalie Heather Stiles before being fouled. Kudritzki scored the shot, giving her four goals in her home finale and tying the game at 7-7.

    However, SDSU proved to be the luckiest in the end when Ashleigh May found a hole and scored the final goal of the game with only 3.2 seconds left. May’s goal capped off a magnificent game between the San Diego rivals and gave the Aztecs a last-second 8-7 victory.

    “”[UCSD] is always a tough opponent,”” Crawford said after the win. “”[Playing UCSD] is a great way for us to prepare for our conference tournament.””

    Prestegard and Hartzell powered SDSU with four and three goals, respectively, and UCSD’s Silverman finished with two goals. Kudritzki and junior Danielle Boyle added two assists apiece.

    “”We just had some unlucky breaks,”” Sanders said. “”We played well and I thought we had the win, but it just didn’t turn out that way.””

    Even though they finished their last home game with a loss, Hemmerly and Kudritzki both enjoyed the amazing atmosphere Friday night.

    “”I’m speechless,”” Kudritzki said. “”It was such a great crowd to have my final home game at.””

    Hemmerly added, “”Seeing my family out there was just fantastic. It has been a wonderful time. I’m sad to see the season ending soon.””

    With the end of the regular season, UCSD now heads into the critical WWPA Conference Tournament. They enter the tourney as the No. 3 seed behind rivals UC Davis and Loyola Marymount. To advance to the NCAA Championships, the Tritons will most likely face both of these teams. However, there is no short supply of confidence within the team.

    “”We’re going to kick some butt,”” Hemmerly said. “”I think our play the last few weeks has [UC Davis and LMU] worried.””

    Sanders sought to find the silver lining from his team’s loss.

    “”I think they will be more hungry [after the SDSU loss],”” Sanders said. “”The desire to win is what we have, and I think we can use it to carry us to the next level.””

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