Tritons take top spot in tournament

    The sixth-ranked Triton men’s water polo squad earned top awards at the UC Davis Shootout at Solano College in Fairfield, Calif., on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, defeating all four of its opponents in the round-robin tournament. On Oct. 25, UCSD topped Brown ‹ No. 4 in the College Water Polo Association ‹ 12-3, before rolling over UC Santa Cruz (ranked No. 3 in Division III), 13-4. Then on Oct. 26, the Tritons overwhelmed No. 17 Santa Clara 11-4, before edging out No. 16 UC Davis, 7-6.

    Rebecca Drexler/Guardian file
    A perfect storm: UCSD, led by co-captain Matt Ellis, were head and shoulders above the competition, outscoring their opponents by a total of 43-17.

    On the opening day of the tournament, the Triton defense was nearly invincible. In the tournament-opener against Brown, UCSD came out strong and backed the Bears into a 5-0 hole in the first quarter, crushing their morale. While Brown was able to hold UCSD to one goal in the second quarter, the damage would stick as the Tritons won the third quarter 3-2 and held on for a shut out in the fourth, 3-0, rounding out the 12-3 rout.

    That afternoon, UCSD took on the Banana Slugs with seemingly little effort. Following a close 2-1 first quarter, the Tritons caught the scent of blood and began their slaughter. In a stellar performance that included a hat trick by Triton senior Matt Ellis, UCSD went up 8-2 in the second period with a 6-1 scoring frenzy. A third quarter 3-0 shutout provided more nails for the UC Santa Cruz coffin as the Tritons sailed into a 13-4 victory.

    The win showed UCSD’s remarkable ability to play as a team, since eight different Tritons combined goals for the victory, including junior Jonathan Hopkins’ team-high 46th goal of the year and junior Brandon Borso’s team-second 34th.

    UCSD played at an even higher level on Oct. 26. In the day’s opener, Santa Clara tried to keep pace with the Tritons’ offense, but suffered a 2-1 first-period deficit. This would be the closest score of the game as UCSD stepped up its defensive measures for a second quarter 3-0 shutout. With a 5-1 halftime lead, the Tritons added three goals in each of the remaining quarters, while allowing only three more opposition goals in the remainder of the game.

    Hopkins took charge of scoring as he secured three Triton goals followed closely by scores from senior co-captain Matthew Ustaszewski and juniors Nate Cooper and Clarke Peterson. Peterson finished the game with two goals.

    The final game of the tournament would prove slightly more competitive than the rest of the weekend matches. While UCSD was able to jump out to an early 3-1 first-quarter lead, UC Davis was reluctant to let the game slip away as the team traded two goals each in the second period, leaving UCSD up 5-3 at the half.

    Going into the third quarter, Aggie senior George Dingeldein came out on fire, putting three quick goals into the back of the Triton net and settling the previously unstoppable Triton momentum. The Aggies’ 6-5 lead held through the third quarter in the first and only quarter of the weekend in which UCSD failed to score.

    “”We were missing opportunities that shouldn’t have been missed,”” Borso said. “”I think there were four one-on-nobody’s where our shots just missed their mark.””

    In the fourth, UCSD was able to tie the game at the 5:16 mark on a four-meter penalty shot by Hopkins. UC Davis then ran a wing-drive and opened up a shooter at two-meters, thus being able to fire a shot that deflected off two of the goal’s crossbars before coming to rest under UCSD goalie Colin McElroy’s arm on the goal line. The front-court referee did not call the ball a goal, and the score remained tied until Borso scored with barely two minutes remaining on the game clock, in what turned out to be the game-deciding goal.

    “”We expected them to play a tough game, but we didn’t expect it to be that close,”” Borso said. “”It’s not that we weren’t mentally or physically prepared; we just didn’t finish.””

    This was the first time that UC Davis met the Tritons this season and increased UCSD’s Western Water Polo Association record to 7-0, guaranteeing a first seed at the WWPA conference tournament at Redlands later this month.

    “”It’s not a guarantee,”” Cooper said on the prospect of winning the conference. “”Teams that we have beaten easily in the regular season can step it up in the tournament. They know that all they have to do is beat us.””

    “”[Earning a top seed in WWPA] is bittersweet,”” Borso said. “”On one hand, your team is favored, but on the other, all of these teams know that we have been the best for two or three years, so they kind of know what to expect.””

    The winner of the WWPA conference tournament is granted a seed in the NCAA Championship in the first weekend of December.

    The Tritons improved their overall record to 16-8.

    McElroy was credited with 24 saves at the UC Davis Shootout, and teammate Hopkins was able to raise his total number of goals to 52 on the season for UCSD.

    The next and final Triton home game will take place Nov. 7 versus UC Santa Barbara at Canyonview Pool, where there will be a beer garden.

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