UCSD falls to No. 3 Pepperdine

    The No. 6 Triton men’s water polo squad lost, 9-4, to No. 3 Pepperdine in their first matchup this season on Oct. 12 at Malibu’s Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool.

    Rachel A. Garcia/Guardian file
    Wipeout: The Pepperdine Waves overwhelmed the UCSD men’s water polo team, which could not hold on to their early 1-0 lead in the first quarter.

    Less than one minute and 30 seconds into the match, junior Jonathan Hopkins scored the only goal of the quarter for either side, putting UCSD up with a confident 1-0 lead.

    With a defense led by junior Kevin Smoker’s remarkable ability to prevent any first-quarter goal from hole set, the Tritons tried to maintain their lead through the opening half.

    The Waves returned to the pool in the second quarter determined to destroy UCSD. In the opening five minutes, Pepperdine put up four unanswered goals against the Triton defense before senior co-captain Matt Ellis was finally able to reply with one at the 1:47 mark. UCSD went to the locker room at the half, suffering a 4-2 deficit.

    Rachel A. Garcia/Guardian file
    Tidal wave: No. 6 UCSD gave up four unanswered goals in the second quarter to the Pepperdine Waves and were limited to just one goal in each period.

    “”Our strategy was good, we just couldn’t contain Jesse [Smith],”” goalie Dave Miller said. “”We had some defensive breakdowns that let him get open.””

    Pepperdine’s Smith was scoreless in the first half, but the national team player managed to dupe the Triton defense for four of the Waves’ five second-half goals.

    UCSD fans watched in horror as their team collapsed over the next two quarters. Juniors Steven Jendrusina and Travis Boettner each scored one in the third and forth, but the damage was irreparable.

    “”Unfortunately, the game was too stagnant. We like to keep games at a fast tempo,”” junior driver Brandon Borso said. “”We’re not a big team, so we try to win on endurance and speed. We needed to be counterattacking.””

    But the counterattack was shut down. Whether by the defensive efforts of the Pepperdine squad or the shortcomings of the Triton offense, the job did not get done.

    “”We had no effective counterattack,”” Miller said. “”The first half counterattack was so slow that we were only having 13 or 15 seconds on the shot clock before we had to dump the ball.””

    An effective counterattack would have necessitated 20 or more seconds for a set offense to occur.

    The men’s water polo team has been subject to a rigorous schedule lately: a four-game tournament at Stanford last weekend; an overtime win against BYU-Hawaii on Oct. 8; a big win against Long Beach State two days later; then the biggest game on Oct. 12 at Pepperdine’s pool.

    “”It wasn’t an issue of preparation,”” Borso said. “”Playing seven games in seven days is tough. We are in condition, but mentally and physically we weren’t ready.””

    The team struggled in this game more than they have in recent games. Man-up offenses were not converted to goal opportunities and counterattacks were usually unsuccessful.

    The fatigued team failed to perform at its peak, especially against the third-ranked Pepperdine Waves, a team composed of many of the league’s top players.

    “”To tell you the truth, this was one of the worst games of the year. It was the worst game of the year. We were lethargic,”” Borso said. “”Everything just seemed to fall apart. Hopefully we can get it behind us.””

    The Tritons get a short break this week before playing their next scheduled game at No. 9 Loyola Marymount on Oct. 17, then another against the UCSD alumni team at 11 a.m. on Oct. 18 in an exhibition game at Canyonview Pool.

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