Men's water polo loses in WWPA finals

    The UCSD men¹s water polo squad swept past Pomona-Pitzer, 20-0, and UC Davis, 13-5, at the University of Redlands Thompson Aquatics Center on Nov. 21 to advance to the Western Water Polo Association Championship game. At the WWPA championship on Nov. 22, No. 8 Loyola Marymount upset the Tritons in a 6-5 decision.

    Rebecca Drexler
    Guardian file

    Nine Triton players scored in the match against Pomona-Pitzer, including hat tricks by senior co-captain utility Matt Ellis, junior drivers Nate Cooper and Jonathan Hopkins, and freshman Joe Woodring. Sophomore goalie Colin McElroy blocked six shot attempts.

    UC Davis did not present the kind of opposition that it had earlier in the season, when UCSD narrowly defeated the Aggies by a 7-6 margin on Oct. 26. Instead, junior driver Brandon Borso matched each of the Aggies¹ five total goals, followed closely by Hopkins with four, senior co-captain utility Matthew Ustaszewski with three and Ellis with one. The Tritons took a sharp 4-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. UCSD defeated UC Davis 13-5 as McElroy recorded five saves and sophomore Brian Corbett had one.

    At the end of the Nov. 22 competition, the Tritons were leading their opponents, 33-5, while starting goalie McElroy had allowed only one goal in six quarters of work with 11 saves.

    The Nov. 23 championship game started unfavorably for the Tritons, who sunk to a quick two-goal deficit after the first quarter from goals by LMU seniors goalie Kris Barr on a man-up advantage and Scott Smith.

    A first-quarter disadvantage has proven to be the Tritons¹ Achilles heel over the course of this season, and the championship game was no different.

    Sophomore hole set Chris Finegold scored within 89 seconds to bring the Tritons to within one, but that didn¹t hold long enough for the Tritons to put away a tying goal. Barr scored at the 2:56 mark in the second quarter, giving his team a single insurance goal as halftime approached.

    But Borso stepped in with an expertly executed lob in the waning 20 seconds of the half, making it a one-point game when the clock expired.

    The Tritons could not contain Barr as he entered the water in the third quarter and scored the first goal of the period at the 4:44 mark, reestablishing his team¹s two-goal lead and keeping the prospect of tying the game out of reach for the Tritons.

    Finegold was able to keep UCSD in striking distance, however, with a man-up goal in the Tritons¹ next offensive opportunity.

    The closest that the Tritons came to leading the game was the fourth-quarter tie made possible by Borso¹s score just 23 seconds into the quarter, locking the game up at four apiece. For the first time since the start of the game, with the WWPA title and an NCAA championship tournament berth on the line, it was anybody¹s game.

    The next two minutes were crucial for the Tritons, but turned out unfruitful. Less than a minute following Borso¹s goal, LMU sophomore Endre Rex-Kiss put his team up with a score at the 5:43 mark. The Tritons did not respond before junior Sean Wimer placed LMU¹s final goal in the net at the 4:44 mark in the final quarter, giving LMU the 6-4 advantage.

    With two minutes left in the period, junior driver Chris Eicholz managed to bring UCSD within one. The Tritons were unable to tally a tying goal to send the match into overtime.

    The Tritonsa offense was stifled by an impressive performance by the Lions’ Ian Elliot, who posted nine saves in the game, many of which took place on Triton counterattacks and high-percentage scoring opportunities. While the Tritons were able to run their consistently effective counterattack, Elliot either blocked the shots or the Tritons missed crucial attempts that held the outcome of the game.

    Hopkins was named the 2003 Western Water Polo Association’s Most Valuable Player and earned first-team all-tournament honors along with Borso. Junior driver Clark Petersen and McElroy were given second-team awards.

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