Men's water polo trounces twice at home

    The No. 6 Triton men’s water polo squad defeated both of its opponents at home this past week, first edging out No. 15 BYU-Hawaii 12-10 in overtime on Oct. 8, then demolishing No. 7 Long Beach State 8-2 on Oct. 10 at the Canyonview Pool. The Tritons lined up against a BYU-Hawaii team that had clearly anticipated an upset. The BYU-Hawaii victory was UCSD head coach Denny Harper’s 400th career win.

    Rebecca Drexler/Guardian
    Holy smokes: UCSD sophomore Kevin Smoker looks to pass the ball to a teammate in the men¹s water polo game against No. 15 BYU-Hawaii. The Tritons beat the Seasiders in overtime 12-10 at Canyonview Pool on Oct. 8.

    “”We know they’re good. Part of us may have been looking past the [BYU-Hawaii] game to the two other big games that we have this week,”” senior Matthew Ustaszewski said.

    UCSD came out strong offensively in the first quarter, delivering a barrage of shots to BYU-Hawaii goalie Peter Caley but were matched goal-for-goal until sophomore Chris Eicholz scored with 37.8 seconds remaining in the first, putting UCSD up 4-3.

    The fire on the BYU-Hawaii bench was fueled by a rock-solid defense and goals in the third and fourth minutes to give them a 5-4 lead.

    But during what would have been their final possession of the half, the Tritons set the ball to Ustaszewski who rifled a backhand from his left across the cage into the upper-right crossbar where it was recovered by junior Clark Peterson. On the recovery, Ustaszewski’s defender illegally fouled him in dead time, leading to a UCSD man-up offense and a full defensive crash with less than a minute remaining in the half. A pump fake and perfect pass from Peterson set junior Brandon Borso up for his second goal of the game and a halftime tie.

    The third quarter was a defensive battle on both ends of the tank, where both teams managed only one goal each. Junior Jonathan Hopkins scored with 3:30 remaining in the quarter on a cross pass to the right wing, where he expertly faked twice and delivered the ball to the back of the net for the only score of the third quarter.

    At 1:30 into the fourth quarter, Borso scored his third man-up goal (he would finish with four) to give UCSD the lead. It squandered by two consecutive BYU-Hawaii scores, including a failed one-on-one counterattack attempt by Ustaszewski, in which the BYU-Hawaii goalie intercepted a pass to give his team a three-on-two counterattack offense.

    Counterattacks were the popular strategy on Oct. 8 as the BYU-Hawaii defense was not allowing a set offense to score. The final two goals of regulation were Peterson’s goal on a three-on-three counter and a two-on-two counterattack, with 2:13 on the clock. Hopkins and Borso took off down the pool, using a series of quick wrist passes until Hopkins was fouled inside four meters, drawing the penalty shot, which he converted.

    The Tritons were kept alive on a crucial block by sophomore goalie Colin McElroy with 4.9 seconds remaining in the game on a deflected cross-cage shot that would have meant certain victory for BYU-Hawaii.

    Overtime quickly turned in to the Borso talent show. In the first of two three-minute overtime periods, Borso recovered a Hopkins shot at two meters in front of the cage, drew an ejection and was left open for a point-blank leading goal, only to see it lost on fatigued defense. But his ambition would not subside, and Borso silenced the BYU-Hawaii bench with a stunning nine-meter, high-corner, bar-in shot for an 11-10 lead going into the final overtime period.

    But that was all that BYU-Hawaii could afford. The final three minutes were filled with lackluster counterattacks, excessive grappling for position and a BYU-Hawaii shutout. Borso offered a follow-up outside shot, to complete his double hat trick, from seven meters with barely a minute left to play.

    The highly anticipated game against LBSU on Oct. 10 turned into a shelling by the UCSD squad as the 49ers were slowly and steadily crushed.

    Log Beach State came into the match ranked seventh, just one place behind the Tritons, and stood to gain much ground from the victory, especially after an 11-10 overtime loss earlier this season at the SoCal Tournament. For a team with so much to prove, there was little evidence to suggest that Long Beach State had the better team.

    Until the 49ers scored a goal with 12.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter, UCSD was proceeding to shut out the 49ers, 3-0.

    “”We jumped on them early and demoralized them a bit,”” Ustaszewski said.

    The Tritons shut down the 49ers, 2-1, in the second period, with goals by Peterson and Borso, putting the home team up, 5-1.

    During the second period, the 49ers’ frustration was evident when Long Beach State goalie Thomas Onyshko took hold of UCSD junior Steve Jendrusina and held him underwater by his shoulders, even after referees stopped play. Both players were ejected from the game for the confrontation, but the damage was done.

    “”At 5-1, [Long Beach State] didn’t seem at all into it. We stopped them early and they knew it,”” Ustaszewski said.

    By the half, the 49ers were through. The Long Beach State coaching staff was livid over the fact that the visiting team had been presented with four man-up opportunities with no conversions and had only been able to release five shots in the game to that point.

    The UCSD squad finished the game at a score of 8-2.

    “”That’s what we are capable of when everyone comes out and shows devotion,”” Ustaszewski said. “”We play with that kind of intensity.””

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