Men's water polo concludes regular season with loss

    The No. 6 UCSD men’s water polo team posted its first loss in six games Nov. 14 in the final match of the regular season against No. 7 UC Irvine at the Irvine Anteater Aquatic Complex, in a tight 8-7 score. The Tritons were seeking their third win and a sweep of the Anteaters this season, but lost.

    The first quarter opened with a pair of man-up scoring opportunities that the Anteaters were able to capitalize on.

    Junior driver Nate Cooper retaliated in the final 1 minute and 5 seconds of the period to bring UCSD within striking distance for a 1-2 deficit.

    “”We weren’t intimidated by them at any point,”” Cooper said. “”We had a good overall offense, but we couldn’t convert. We were making good things happen without following through.””

    This year, the Tritons have struggled in games which they have lost the first quarter, going three for 10 in such matchups.

    “”We started out slow,”” senior co-captain and utility Matthew Ustaszewski said. “”We didn’t have a lot of energy, but we were able to pick it up and we played well in the second half.””

    The Anteaters’ success early in the match would not go unrewarded.

    While UCI was able to score its first goal within 22 seconds of the quarter-opening sprint, the Tritons managed to regain composure as team-high scorers and junior drivers Jonathan Hopkins and Brandon Borso each chalked up one goal apiece as the quarter expired with the teams tied at 3-3.

    “”I think we felt like we should have been up at the half,”” Ustaszewski said. “”Missed breakaway chances and six-on-five opportunities hurt us.””

    UCI’s Rick Merlo stepped up on the Tritons, scoring the go-ahead goal 57 seconds into the third quarter.

    Borso tied the game in the following 22 seconds on a man-up opportunity. Such was the pattern for the remainder of the quarter as UCI’s Nate White and Hopkins matched goals to finish the quarter at 5-5.

    With the outcome of the game lying in the fourth quarter, the Tritons were largely looking for the victory. Junior driver Clark Peterson slammed a goal into the back of the cage on a six-on-five with 6:33 remaining, granting UCSD its first lead of the game.

    Shots continued to hit their mark for both teams through the final period, while Anteater senior Phil Garcia and Triton senior co-captain utility Matt Ellis raised the stakes to a 7-6 UCSD lead in the waning four minutes.

    As the clock ticked past the one-minute mark, the Tritons were only seconds away from a season-high, sixth consecutive victory.

    With 0:38 on the game clock, however, Hutten made it anyone’s game with a match-tying goal.

    Triton hopes were dashed in the final 35-second possession, as the Anteaters’ Dan Noon was able to get a shot off in the last five seconds of regulation.

    “”We weren’t aggressive,”” Ustaszewski said. “”It’s like we were all just trying to let the clock run out and didn’t execute our defense that well. There were some calls at the end that I think we were relying on the official for and we just can’t do that.””

    A last second, half-court shot attempt by the Tritons would not score, and what seemed to be a sure UCSD victory to end the regular season had collapsed into a one-goal loss.

    This is the first time that the sixth-ranked Tritons have dropped a game to a lower-seeded team this season.

    The Tritons will enter the postseason on Nov. 21 at the Western Water Polo Association Tournament at the University of Redlands where they will attempt to defend their WWPA crown.

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