LMU edges UCSD in WWPAs

    New York Yankees, Detroit Red Wings, Duke basketball … you can add Loyola Marymount women’s water polo to the list of perennial party poopers; the teams that everyone loves to hate.

    Rebecca Drexler
    Guardian file

    For the second consecutive year, the UCSD women’s water polo team had their National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four hopes dashed by the Lions of LMU in the Western Water Polo Association championship game, on April 27 in Bakersfield, Calif.; a five-goal first quarter proved to be decisive in the 8-6 loss.

    UCSD finished the 2003 season with a 23-14 overall record.

    Despite the second-place finish in the WWPA and top-notch tournament victories over CSU San Bernardino and heated rival UC Davis, coming home again without a championship trophy proved to be a little hard to swallow for the Tritons.

    “”We’re disappointed with the loss,”” said UCSD head coach Larry Sanders after the LMU game. “”We’ve worked hard to come this far, and to not finish it off … it’s frustrating. We expect to win a conference championship every year.””

    The road to the championship game began with an 11-5 tournament-opening victory over CSU San Bernardino on April 25. The Tritons charged right out of the gate, taking advantage of all scoring opportunities to start the game with a 4-0 run before the Coyotes got one by the UCSD defense at the end of the first quarter. UCSD rammed three goals into the San Bernardino cage in the second period, meanwhile allowing only one more goal, which gave the Tritons a 7-2 lead. UCSD added four more scores in the third before sending in the subs. San Bernardino hit three consolation goals in the half. UCSD’s Elizabeth Keesey and Dana Tucker led the scoring with a hat trick each.

    “”We jumped out early those first two quarters, scoring goals and shutting [San Bernardino] down. We dictated the tempo of the game,”” Sanders said.

    The next day proved successful once again for the Tritons as they downed rival UC Davis by a score of 6-5 in the semifinal on April 26.

    After a first-period draw, UCSD lit up the scoreboard three times in the second period to take a 4-1 lead at the half. Before things could be considered safe, however, the Aggies came back with two goals of their own to cut the UCSD lead to one. The Tritons scored two more to “”shut down any Davis momentum,”” according to Sanders. After letting in one more “”garbage”” goal, UCSD’s defense set in to shut out and frustrate the Aggies for the remainder of the match.

    Tucker and Keesey were top scorers once again, along with Meris Bantilan-Smith, with two goals each.

    With the victory, the UCSD squad found itself facing a quick LMU squad in the championship. The Tritons knew they would have to slow down the speedy Lion attack early if they were to take control of the match.

    Easier said than done.

    The Lion offense came out swinging, using speed and taking advantage of some UCSD defensive miscues to put five goals on the scoreboard in the first period, and one in the second. UCSD valiantly kept up with LMU, adding three goals to cut the lead to 6-3 at the break.

    Suddenly in the third, the Tritons charged back, scoring twice to get within two of the Lions at 7-5. Then, at the beginning of the fourth, LMU did what all hated teams do best: They put the nail in the coffin.

    UCSD fought hard for the rest of the quarter, scoring one more to make it a two-goal game again, but couldn’t come up with any more of the scoring magic. Samara Silverman led the Triton offensive with three goals.

    The efforts of UCSD’s play didn’t come in vain, however, as four Tritons were named to the All-Tournament team. Tucker was a first team selection, Bantilan-Smith and Silverman were second-team selections and Keesey rounded up the bunch with an honorable mention.

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