UCSD again crowned WWPA Champs

    “”We want to make it to the finals and beat LMU,”” said Triton men’s water polo team’s Kellan Hori before last weekend’s Western Water Polo Association Championships at UCSD.

    Sarah M. Stauch
    Guardian

    Hori got his wish on Nov. 23 when the Tritons edged Loyola Marymount University 5-4 in front of 1,456 fans at Canyonview Pool. The win gave UCSD its 13th conference title and earned the Tritons an automatic berth in the 2002 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, which will be held at LMU.

    Last year, UCSD’s season ended in the Lions’ pool in the WWPA championship game.

    “”I’ve been looking forward to this game all year,”” said senior goalkeeper Lance Onken, who earned first-team All-WWPA honors while stopping seven Lions shots and giving up just four goals. “”Since we lost last year, I’ve wanted to beat LMU at our pool and go to play NCAA’s at their pool.””

    Sarah M. Stauch
    Guardian

    The win over LMU was the Tritons’ third this season without a loss. Hori, who earned All-Conference Honorable Mention, was confident after the game.

    “”They can’t beat us at our pool,”” Hori said. “”We didn’t lose a game in conference all year. They can’t beat us here; we have the best crowd support.””

    In the game, UCSD took a quick 1-0 lead on a goal by sophomore Kevin Smoker, but the Lions bounced back with one of their own to tie the score.

    UCSD senior co-captain Paul Motschall put the Tritons ahead by one again, but the Lions would even the score once more on a goal by WWPA Most Valuable Player Kevin Witt. After the first quarter, the game was tied at two.

    In the second quarter, freshman Jesse Casellini scored for the Tritons on a counterattack to put UCSD up 3-2 going into halftime.

    Hori gave UCSD a two-goal advantage in the third period with a skip-shot past LMU goalkeeper Kevin Paulsen. But the Lions would not be broken, outscoring the Tritons 2-1 during the remainder of the third quarter and trimming the Triton lead to 5-4.

    Both offenses stagnated and with two minutes left in the contest, and the score remained 5-4 in favor of UCSD.

    “”I called a timeout, put the ‘blue’ group in, and the directive was to go down and run some offense, and if we got some opportunities, to take them,”” said Triton head coach Denny Harper. “”But if we didn’t get anything out of the front court offense, to play defense and set up a counterattack.””

    LMU had the ball with less than two minutes on the clock when Motschall stole the ball and gave the Tritons possession.

    “”Motschall definitely had a great steal down there,”” Harper said.

    After the UCSD offense stalled once more, the Lions had one final opportunity. With Hori guarding him, Witt’s shot glanced off of the crossbar and flew out of bounds, securing the Triton victory.

    “”Hori wasn’t supposed to be guarding him. We had him guarding at two meters, and he’s not a defender,”” Harper said. “”There’s nothing more nerve-racking than when the conference MVP has a shot like that.””

    As the clock ran out, Harper was dragged into the pool by his championship team.

    “”The thing that was just so cool for me was seeing the kids,”” Harper said. “”The game was over, now I’m in the water and I see how happy they are and that’s when it really hit that this is really neat.””

    To get to the championship game on Nov. 23, UCSD had to beat both La Verne and the Air Force Academy on Nov. 22.

    Against La Verne, the top-seeded Tritons won 9-4. First team All-WWPA selection Clark Peterson led the Tritons with three goals, followed by Travis Boettner’s two.

    In the nightcap against the Falcons of Air Force, fellow all-conference selection Jonathan Hopkins and Brandon Borso combined for seven of UCSD’s 10 goals, and Onken pulled down 10 saves in the 10-4 victory.

    On championship Saturday, five different Tritons each scored one goal to secure UCSD’s 13th WWPA championship.

    With the win over LMU, UCSD is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Championships, which will consist of four teams and will be held at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8.

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