Women’s water polo takes 2 of 3

    The No. 14 UCSD women’s water polo team finished their spring break at the Loyola Marymount Tournament from March 26 to March 27, holding off Redlands 4-3 and doing one better than WWPA foe Cal State San Bernardino in overtime, 9-8. They fell short against No. 20 Cal State Northridge, 5-4, to finish 2-1 on the swing and stand at 11-14 for the season.

    Carina Weber
    Guardian file

    The Tritons struggled in the second half against their unranked opponents, letting 3-1 and 4-2 halftime leads against Redlands and Cal State San Bernardino slip away. Senior 2-meter defender Meris Bantilan-Smith’s seven goals proved that the scoring opportunities were plentiful, but the Tritons couldn’t quite get those one or two extra goals to pad their lead. Against Cal State Northridge, UCSD took 20 shots and created seven different man-up opportunities, yet only scored two in the second half.

    “What happened was something like basketball, where we were doing stuff, creating … Our six-on-fives were executed perfectly, but the ball simply wasn’t falling,” UCSD head coach Larry Sanders said. The Triton defense was resilient when it counted most, limiting both the Roadrunners and the Coyotes to one goal in the final period and tipping those close games in favor of the Tritons. The UCSD defense has accrued a low 5.44 goals-against average in 2004, led by individual performances like goalie Stephanie Lombardo’s 10 saves against Cal State San Bernardino.

    “The gals didn’t give up, they played to win. They know they struggled, but they didn’t lose their focus,” Sanders said.

    After allowing three late Cal State San Bernardino goals to force overtime at 7-7, the Triton defense shut out the Coyotes in the first extra period and allowed only one in the second. Junior utility Courtney Clevenger picked it up from there, firing home UCSD’s second goal of the period and the 9-8 game winner.

    Overtime could have been avoided if UCSD had a little more luck on their side. Cal State San Bernardino’s first two goals came on a defensive deflection by senior 2-meter Lesha Bounds’ and through a shot that struck the crossbar and ricocheted off the back of sophomore goalie Kaitlin Foe’s head.

    “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than be good,” Sanders said.

    Against Redlands on March 26, Bantilan-Smith scored two goals in the first half and sophomore driver Flynn LaRochelle tallied with 4:41 left in the third for a 4-1 advantage that melted by the 4:33 mark in the third, with Kelly Phillips’ goal to draw the Bulldogs within one. But the UCSD defense turned into stone, shutting down all of Redlands’ efforts, including a six-on-five with five seconds left.

    Fueled by goals from Bantilan-Smith, Bounds and freshman 2-meter defender Sarah Bajorek, the Tritons were on top of Cal State Northridge for the better part of three periods before the Matadors scored twice in the third and Chari Christopher put one in the cage with 2:44 left for a 5-3 lead.

    Still, the Tritons kept on pushing, holding defensively on Cal State Northridge’s last two possessions while junior utility Tobi Lyman found the back of the net on a six-on-four advantage with 1:44 left. UCSD’s final push was thwarted by a Cal State Northridge steal with nine seconds left.

    Fatigue may have also had a hand in UCSD’s offensive sputters. A week of “triples” (days with three workout sessions) left the usually alert Tritons “physically…and mentally tired,” Sanders said.

    The Tritons get a lengthy break to build on team focus before opening Canyonview Pool for a face off against Cal State San Bernardino on April 8 at 6 p.m. and UC Santa Barbara on April 9 at 3 p.m.

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