Water polo can’t hold off No. 5 Gauchos

    Freshman driver Adnan Jerkovic was the lone Triton scorer in the losing effort against No. 5 UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 8, as the No. 6 Triton men’s water polo squad dropped its third of four contests to the Gauchos this season. Jerkovic’s four goals weren’t enough, and UCSD sank, 8-4. Back in action on Oct. 9, the Tritons topped Long Beach State in a narrow 9-8 contest, and then trampled over the Gaels of Iona College, 12-6.

    Prior to the Oct. 8 match, expectations were high: UCSD was 1-2 against the Gauchos in three games, all won by a single point. Adding to the difficulty facing the Tritons was the knowledge that UC Santa Barbara had, in the previous week, knocked UC Irvine from the No. 5 spot with an upset win at the NorCal Tournament in Stockton, Calif. This shuffle in the rankings meant that if the Tritons had been able to dispose of the Gauchos, UCSD would have advanced to No. 5 in the weekly Men’s National Collegiate Top-20 poll.

    Opening the game, Jerkovic struck first with a score only 1:38 into the first period. Most of the rest of the opening period was scoreless until the Gauchos went on a 2-0 drive in the final two minutes, ending the first frame 2-1.

    In the Tritons’ strongest scoring quarter of the game, the teams tied 2-2 in scoring in the second period to end the half, 4-3, in favor of the Gauchos.

    The match, though off to a close start, dissolved rapidly after the half. Jerkovic was the only Triton who could get the ball past UC Santa Barbara goalie Jon Bonafede, and the Tritons tallied only one score after the half.

    Junior goalie Colin McElroy blocked nine Gaucho shots in the contest.

    Two keys to the Gauchos’ success over UCSD were the near-flawless performance of Bonafede, who, with an 11-save second half, prevented 16 scoring chances by the Tritons, and the consistency with which the Gauchos were able to score. In terms of scoring, UC Santa Barbara was steady, recording two goals every quarter.

    On Oct. 9, UCSD paid a visit to the Long Beach Invitational for matches against the tournament host 49ers and Iona College of New York. Long Beach State played the Tritons close in the first match, leading by two goals at two different times in the first half. For the entire first half, UCSD battled to put the 49ers on the defensive. With only 1:53 remaining in the first half, and the score tied after a 2-0 Triton drive, junior driver Chris Eichholz helped UCSD gain its first advantage of the game with his second goal of the match.

    The Tritons outscored the 49ers in the third quarter by a 2-1 margin, enough to tie the match going into the final seven-minute period. Long Beach State scored its last goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter and then was silenced by goals from junior two-meter man Chris Finegold, sophomore utility Jesse Casellini and Jerkovic.

    McElroy blocked 10 shots in the victory. Eichholz led Triton scoring with three goals, as freshman two-meter Simon Shafer, freshman driver Ben Miller and junior two-meter Matthew Budnick each contributed one to the effort.

    Later in the afternoon of Oct. 9, UCSD faced off against Iona. After the initial quarter, the score might have worried Triton fans as the Gaels knotted UCSD at three goals each. But doubt vanished before the half as Iona was completely shut out in the second frame, 3-0, giving the Tritons a 6-3 halftime advantage.

    The Tritons never slowed down enough for Iona to mount any sort of comeback, as UCSD outscored the Gaels 2-1 in the third period and 4-2 in the final quarter, closing out the 12-6 thrashing.

    Scoring was well distributed across the UCSD bench as seven Tritons recorded goals. Eichholz again led UCSD with three, followed by Casellini, Jerkovic and sophomore driver Joe Woodring, each with a pair. Rounding out UCSD scoring, senior captain Nate Cooper, Miller and Finegold tallied one each.

    In the cage for the Tritons, junior goalies Dave Miller and Bryan Corbett came out even, each blocking the same number of shots as they allowed through. Miller stopped four shots over three quarters and allowed four past. In the final period, Corbett prevented two goal attempts and sacrificed two scores.

    The Tritons bring their record to 18-6 with the wins as they return to UCSD for a six-game home stand at Canyonview Pool. The first match is scheduled Oct. 15, with a 6 p.m. start against Western Water Polo Association rival No. 8 Loyola Marymount University. Conference matches weigh heavily in the Tritons’ postseason success, so the home advantage will provide fans the chance to support this nationally ranked squad.

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