Triton men outlast No. 10 Loyola Marymount

    The Triton menas water polo squad tightened its grip on the Western Water Polo Association title on Oct. 17, beating No. 10 Loyola Marymount in a close 9-8 game at LMU’s Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center.

    Rachel A. Garcia/Guardian file
    Lion’s den: The visiting Tritons edged out the LMU Lions, 9-8, on Oct. 17.

    It was a one-point match until the fourth quarter when back-to-back UCSD goals gave the Tritons the insurance they needed for the victory.

    In the opening two minutes, LMU senior Ryan Chapatte scored the first goal of the game on a man-up offense.

    The Tritons’ offense was slow getting started and didn’t respond until almost five minutes into the game when senior utility and co-captain Matt Ellis took advantage of an LMU ejection and scored, tying the game at a goal apiece.

    “”We came out flat,”” said junior driver Nate Cooper.

    Shots finally started flying in the second quarter, as the Tritons and Lions traded goals, maintaining a one-point margin courtesy of goals by sophomore hole set Chris Finegold and junior utility John Hopkins, until LMU scored last with 1:10 remaining in the half, giving them the 4-3 lead.

    “”It was a slow game,”” said junior driver Clark Petersen. “”We swam them pretty hard in the first half, and they looked tired in the second half because of that.””

    Teammates and UCSD head coach Denny Harper shared Cooper’s sentiments.

    “”We played a poor first half,”” Petersen said. “”But Denny got on us and we came out in the third with three back-to-back-to-back goals from the same spot in the pool. Denny told us he didn’t care if we lost playing [well], but he wouldn’t let them win because we were playing soft.””

    Even with all the swimming, UCSD wasn’t able to use their counterattack aggressively enough to gain a lead before the half.

    In the beginning of the third quarter, when the teams switched sides, the UCSD offense gained the benefit of having the afternoon sun behind their backs. Petersen and Ellis were able to take full advantage of the handicap, Petersen scoring twice and Ellis once from the same position. Hopkins scored his second goal of the game later in the quarter, helping to fend off the encroaching Lions. UCSD finished the quarter with little breathing room, 7-6.

    LMU jumped out in the fourth, scoring and again tying the game at 7. The Tritons were quick to respond, as senior utility Matthew Ustaszewski and Finegold scored back-to-back goals, widening the gap to two, the widest advantage for either side of the entire match.

    Finegold’s goal, coming with one minute on the game clock, turned out to be the winning goal, as the Lions returned on their final offense to earn back one goal with 40 seconds remaining.

    “”It didn’t seem to make a big difference, but after they got that last goal, it turns out that it mattered,”” Finegold said.

    Hopkins scored his team-leading 39th and 40th goals of the season in the game.

    Players couldn’t specifically name any aspect of their game, offensively or defensively, that fell short enough to account for the dismal first half. Goalkeeper Colin McElroy stopped seven LMU shot attempts. The Tritons’ defensive and offensive strategies were efficient, but not overwhelming.

    UCSD improved its record to 12-7 overall and currently holds first place with a record of 5-0 in the WWPA conference. The men’s water polo team will travel up to Palo Alto, Calif. to square off against No. 4 Stanford on Oct. 24. After the Tritons’ match against the Cardinal, they will also play four matches at the UC Davis Tournament on the weekend of Oct. 25.

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