Tritons get a split of weekend games

In the race for top conference seeding, the women’s water polo team rolled into Bakersfield, Calif., on April 5 with an initiative to beat CSU Bakersfield and rival UC Davis, thereby sending a message to the rest of the Western Water Polo Association that the Tritons are here to play. UCSD showcased its team strength for seven quarters, picking up a 10-5 victory over CSUB in the process. However, it was one leaky first period against Davis that brought the whole dream crashing down. The Tritons fell to the Aggies for the second time this season, 6-4. With a 1-2 record against the Aggies for the season and a 0-1 record against conference leader Loyola Marymount, the prize of a top seed now looks more distant than ever.

Tyler Huff
Guardian file

“”It is still possible to pick up a good seed for the [conference] tournament,”” said UCSD head coach Larry Sanders. “”But with two losses against Davis, a team that we should have beat, we just made the road a whole lot tougher.””

If there were any indication of a weakness in UCSD’s defensive armor, it wasn’t apparent in the opening game of the day against the Roadrunners. The Tritons held Bakersfield to only one goal in the first half, dominating the area in front of the cage. UCSD also controlled the tempo offensively, but the goal-scoring well came up dry in the first half. The halftime score of 2-1 only confirmed the story of a team that was outplaying its opponent, but failing to get the total advantage.

“”We definitely outplayed Bakersfield, and we were looking for that opportunity to just take that game away; but without goals, it just wasn’t happening,”” Sanders said.

Tyler Huff
Guardian file

The Triton offense finally broke out of its shell in the second half, torching the Roadrunner defense for five sorely needed goals, giving UCSD a commanding 7-1 lead before bringing out the subs in the fourth quarter. UCSD’s bench also got into the act, adding three goals of their own while picking up some valuable playing time.

The Roadrunners hit three consolation goals in the fourth against the Triton subs to finish off the contest. Meris Bantilan-Smith and Elizabeth Keesey led the Triton scoring with three goals each, while Danielle Boyle added two scores.

After completing its season sweep of Bakersfield, the Tritons looked ahead to the match against rival UC Davis, knowing that a victory would give UCSD the boost it needed to establish a position of dominance in conference play. The Tritons struck first in the contest, capitalizing on a 6-on-5 power play to take an early 1-0 lead. The goal swung the momentum UCSD’s way, but on the very next Davis possession, the Aggies scored to tie the game at one and shut down any confidence the Tritons had.

Still hurting from the blow, the Tritons gave up three more goals in the first quarter for a 4-1 Davis lead. UCSD managed one more goal in the quarter, but offensively, the Tritons were having trouble with their passes and fumbling the ball a little too much. In any UCSD – UCD game, where the play is rough and the goals are ground out with precision, allowing four goals in a quarter is almost fatal.

“”After that first goal, we got a little too relaxed and we let up too much. It’s frustrating to any team, and those goals really hurt us,”” Sanders said.

The Triton defense toughened up in the second quarter, shutting down the Aggie offense and creating some opportunities on offense, but the Tritons continued to have their trouble in front of the cage. UCSD scored in the third to pull within one at 4-3, and looked to take the equalizer, but two Davis goals shut down any signs of a Triton comeback. UCSD added one more in the fourth, but by then it was too little, too late.

Bantilan-Smith was UCSD’s top scorer with two goals.

UCSD goes into its next game against conference leader Loyola Marymount on April 11 knowing that the odds are against them for a top seed, but the Tritons still plan to finish strong.

“”Those games could have given us the [seed], but we squandered those chances,”” Sanders said. “”We need to come together these next weeks and make up for our losses.””