Women's water polo finishes tenth at UCSB Invitational

    Using the second half to rejuvenate its game, the women’s water polo team picked up two victories in four games for a 10th-place finish at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational on March 8 and March 9.

    Rebecca Drexler
    Guardian file

    The Tritons struggled early in the competition, dropping a heartbreaker to conference rival Loyola Marymount before rebounding later in the day to defeat Redlands. UCSD’s momentum proved to be crucial in the next day’s overtime victory over UC Irvine, but the Tritons failed to overcome an early five-goal deficit over San Jose State, despite a strong second-half comeback.

    “”We played some good games,”” said Triton head coach Larry Sanders about UCSD’s tournament performance. “”We played [LMU and SJSU] to the wire, but we spotted them too many goals early on.””

    UCSD’s weekend began on a brighter note when the Tritons took command of the final two quarters to defeat UC Irvine 8-4 on March 6. The Anteaters held the lead for most of the first half, converting on all four of their 6-on-5 man-up advantages. The Tritons kept themselves in the game with two goals from Danielle Boyle and one goal from Dana Tucker to cut the UCI lead to 4-3 at halftime. In the third quarter, UCSD turned up the heat with an aggravating press defense that frustrated the UCI players. The Tritons controlled the game from that point, taking the advantages given to them by UCI’s flagrant fouling and scoring five unanswered goals to capture the victory. Renae Coulter, Meris Banitlan-Smith, Lesha Bounds and Samara Silverman each picked up a goal in the scoring flurry.

    “”UCI clawed and scratched at us, but we kept our cool, turned up the intensity and we took control,”” Silverman said.

    After UCSD opened up tournament play, the Tritons looked forward to displaying their capabilities in their March 8 opening match against LMU, which is widely considered to be the team to beat this year in the Western Water Polo Association. After the Lions picked up three goals in the first half, UCSD answered back with goals from Tucker and Elizabeth Keeseym, to stay only a goal behind at 3-2. The Tritons kept knocking on the door for most of the game, but couldn’t punch in any more goals. LMU managed three more scores in the last six minutes to end all hope of a UCSD win, ending the game with a score of 6-2. The loss was a tough one for UCSD, but the Tritons picked up great confidence in knowing that they could run with some of the best in their pack.

    “”We played LMU tough, and they’re definitely beatable,”” Sanders said. “”They’re not the machine that some think they are, and we can’t wait to play them again.””

    The Tritons moved on to their next game against Redlands, getting the after-effects of the loss out of their system en route to a 7-3 victory. After a slow first quarter, UCSD took the lead and never looked back. The Tritons were fueled by two goals each from Silverman and Bantilan-Smith.

    The victory propelled UCSD into a rematch with UC Irvine on March 9. This time, however, things were a lot more competitive, with the Anteaters and Tritons pushing each other to the limit. UCSD held a 6-5 lead going into the fourth quarter, but UCI scored a goal to send the game into overtime. UCSD picked up the goal in sudden death, giving them a hard-earned 7-6 triumph. Bantilan-Smith led the Tritons with three goals in the contest.

    Only two hours later, UCSD looked to defeat San Jose State and finish a strong 3-1 for the tournament, but fatigue caught up with the players, and the Tritons fell in another shootout 9-8. After spotting the Spartans a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Tritons played inspired ball in the second, holding San Jose State scoreless and cutting the deficit to 5-3 at the intermission. The tired UCSD squad gave up three goals in the third quarter and one in the fourth, surged back with four goals in the fourth, but failed to get the equalizer before the end.

    At the midpoint of the season, the 13-5 Tritons are ranked ninth in the nation and have big plans ahead of them.

    “”We’ve played good so far this season, we’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle, and in the next six weeks, we need to put it all together,”” Sanders said.

    The Tritons continue their run to glory this weekend, playing host to Indiana on March 14, and to UCLA and Princeton on March 15. The Tritons are especially looking forward to squaring off against the third-ranked Bruins, UCSD’s toughest challenge of the season.

    “”Hey, to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. We plan to give it our all,”” said Boyle.

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