Long Beach shuts down Tritons late

    On the verge of an upset after controlling the tempo for the first three quarters, the No. 14 UCSD women’s water polo team gave up five unanswered goals, allowing No. 5 Cal State Long Beach to escape with a 9-4 home victory Feb. 12.

    The Tritons’ (1-5) offense dictated play in the first half as goals from senior drivers Jessica Wong and Tobi Lyman, combined with a score off a steal by sophomore two-meter Britta Nordstrom, gave UCSD a 3-2 lead at halftime.

    Cal State Long Beach stormed back, however, fueled by Cassie Azevedo’s two goals early in the fourth period to seal the victory for the 49ers. With the loss, the Tritons now stand 1-5 for the year, while the 49ers move up to 5-1. All of UCSD’s opponents so far have been ranked in the top 20 nationally.

    “We had a good first half, capitalizing on our counter-opportunities, but the second half got away from us,” UCSD head coach Larry Sanders said. “It seemed like the referees were kicking us out more often than they needed to.”

    The jump in ejections resulted in Cal State Long Beach scoring five goals in the last seven man-up opportunities, each of which went unanswered by the UCSD offense.

    After five scoreless minutes in the first quarter, Lyman and Wong got things cooking for the Tritons, giving UCSD a 2-0 lead in less than 40 seconds. Lyman scored the opening goal at 1:35 while Wong found the back of the net with 59 seconds left in the period.

    After Triton sophomore two-meter Natalie Hockett scored her second goal of the match with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the third period to knot things up at four apiece, the 49ers retook the lead just 35 seconds later to head into the final period with a 5-4 advantage.

    Azevedo notched her second and third goals of the match at the 4:31 and 2:29 marks of the fourth quarter, while her teammates added two more points before the final whistle. Drue Wawrzynski also earned two goals for the 49ers, while goaltender Bri Hawkins made two stops on the day. Freshman goalie Kim Hockett picked up four saves between the pipes for UCSD.

    “Long Beach State had some good outside shooters, but we were playing good offense in the first half by making opportunities for ourselves, like Britta [Nordstrom]’s steal, instead of waiting for things to happen,” Sanders said.

    Following Wawrzynski’s goal to get Cal State Long Beach on the board early in the second period, Nordstrom made a great steal in the 49ers’ zone and turned that into a 3-1 lead for the Tritons at the 4:04 mark. Azevedo scored at 2:29 to cut Cal State Long Beach’s deficit to one before the half.

    “We realized today that in the first half we can beat anybody, which will help us when we play Loyola Marymont and other tough teams later on,” Sanders said. “Now, we just have to play the whole game that way.”

    UCSD returns to Canyonview Pool to take on Cal State San Bernardino at 4 p.m. on Feb. 19.

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