No. 6 men's water polo begins playoffs

    The reigning Western Water Polo Association champion Triton men’s water polo squad will face off against its first opponent, No. 8 seed Pomona-Pitzer, on Nov. 21 at the University of Redlands. UCSD enters the WWPA tournament seeded first and undefeated in the division. In their only contest this season, the Tritons blew the Sagehens out of the water in a 25-2 rout.

    Rebecca Drexler
    Guardian file

    The tournament is not a certain victory for UCSD, however.

    “”Right now, anybody could be in the pool for the final game. Every team [at the WWPA tournament] has a chance,”” junior driver Clark Petersen said.

    Last year, UCSD and Loyola Marymount met in the final match of the tournament, which the Tritons went on to win, earning them a NCAA tournament berth.

    Rebecca Drexler
    Guardian file

    While the Lions are seeded second going into the tournament again, they are not necessarily the most threatening opponent. The Tritons defeated the Lions in both of their meetings this year.

    “”I want to see us and Air Force there,”” senior co-captain utility Matt Ellis said. “”They are the only team in the WWPA that we haven’t faced yet this year.””

    The No. 17 Falcons are seeded third behind LMU, giving them a strong chance of making it to the final game.

    Regardless, the Tritons’ two toughest opponents will likely have to face each other before they are given any shot at UCSD.

    The Tritons have started the transition from their regular season practices into a more lax regimen to enable them to perform at their peak in the upcoming playoffs.

    “”We’ve started to taper a little. Everyone’s just getting relaxed this week,”” Petersen said. “”We have put a lot of work into our six-on-five defense and offense as well as on our counterattacks.””

    A key focus for UCSD will be coming out strong. The Tritons proved that their chance of victory is more than doubled when they win the first quarter. The counterattack will be essential in moving ahead in the tournament by capitalizing on slower teams’ weaknesses.

    “”We have got to defend our crown,”” Petersen said. “”This will be the 14th WWPA title for [UCSD].””

    This weekend there will be seven teams in the WWPA conference nipping at the heels of the top-seeded Tritons. Five of these teams are ranked in the most recent NCAA top-20 poll.

    “”We know what the deal is,”” junior driver Nate Cooper said. “”If we win [the WWPA], then we go to NCAAs. If we lose, our season is over. That’s it.””

    Should the Tritons win all three of their games, they will be seeded third at the NCAA Championship on the weekend of Dec. 6.

    For now, the Tritons are five arduous games away from their first national title at the Division II level.

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