Tritons go 2-1 en route to third-place WWPA finish

    The No. 17 UCSD women’s water polo team put its ability to rebound from disappointment on center stage for the last time in 2005, defeating Santa Clara 10-7 to earn a third-place finish at the Women’s Western Water Polo Association Championships hosted by UC Davis from April 29 through May 1. The victory came after the Tritons were denied a third consecutive championship game appearance in a frustrating 7-6 defeat to the hosts in sudden-death play.

    Greg Dale
    Heartbreaker:

    Leading the way for the Tritons during the weekend was senior driver Tobi Lyman, who netted seven goals en route to earning All-WWPA First-Team honors. Senior utility Courtney Clevenger, who notched four points in three games, and junior goaltender Kaitlin Foe were named to the All-WWPA Second Team while senior two-meter Lindsay Grossman was selected as an honorable mention. UCSD completes its season with an 18-17 overall record.

    “We definitely played well enough to win every game, and in sudden death it’s really anyone’s game. In this case, our only problem was that we didn’t come up with the first goal,” UCSD head coach Larry Sanders said.

    UCSD and Santa Clara battled to a 2-2 score in the opening period before the Tritons pulled away with three consecutive goals to distance themselves from their opponents and run away with the third-place finish. The Tritons converted on five of their six man-up opportunities. Senior driver Jessica Wong led all UCSD scorers with three goals while sophomore two-meter Sarah Bajorek and sophomore utility Michelle Perkins were right behind with a pair each. Sophomore two-meter Judy Emaus scored on a man-up attempt to break the 2-2 deadlock with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first half, followed up by goals from Wong and sophomore driver Miho Umezawa which put UCSD up 5-2. Perkins responded to a Santa Clara tally with a point of her own at the 1:11 mark of the second period before the Broncos added a man-up goal to cut their deficit to two at the half.

    Lyman’s goal with 6:36 left in the third restored the three-point advantage, before Bajorek’s tally exactly four minutes later gave the Tritons their largest lead of the game. Both teams added a goal in the period; UCSD led 9-5 going into the final frame before Wong followed Catherine Flynn’s goal for Santa Clara with her third score of the game to seal the win.

    “Any team will be a little down after losing a big game, but we took control after awhile and never let up,” Sanders said.

    UCSD pulled out some last-second heroics against the Aggies when, following Sarah Rees’ goal to put UC Davis up by one with 1:15 left in overtime, Bajorek scored on a rebound as time expired to send the game to a sudden-death period. The Tritons could not hold off Rees a second time, however, as she netted the game-winner from seven meters out with 1:03 remaining in the first sudden-death period to advance her team to the championship game for the first time in three years.

    “We could have stopped them in the last minute of regulation, but they also missed a lot of opportunities as well,” Sanders said. The shot that [Rees] threw was almost perfect, right into the corner; in some sense, it was lucky because it was so far out, but [UC Davis] went for it and made it.”

    Seniors scored every UCSD goal in the back-and-forth contest, as Lyman tallied a hat trick while Clevenger added a pair along with Grossman’s buzzer-beater. After a Clevenger goal at the 4:46 mark of the second period, the Aggies knotted things up, only to have Lyman score just before halftime to give the Tritons a 3-2 lead heading into halftime.

    UC Davis rallied from the break to put up two consecutive scores, the second by Cassie Schafer with 3:51 remaining in the third period, to give the Aggies their first lead since late in the opening frame. Clevenger put the Tritons level with her goal at the 2:01 mark, followed by Lyman’s tally to give UCSD the lead with only 1:36 left in the fourth period. The Aggies, however, made the most of UCSD’s ejection call with 33 seconds left, converting on the six-on-five advantage to send the game into overtime.

    In their opening match of the championships, the Tritons had more trouble than expected from the Sonoma State Seawolves before junior two-meter Kirsten Frazer gave UCSD the eventual game-winning goal at the 1:48 mark in the third quarter. After pounding the Seawolves by scores of 15-2 and 12-2 earlier this season, the Tritons were surprised to find Sonoma State nipping at their heels, tying the game at three after goals from Lyman, Wong and Clevenger gave UCSD a 3-1 lead early in the second period.

    “Sonoma State is better than a lot of people think, and in this case they were trying to be the Cinderellas.” Sanders said. “It wasn’t quite a ‘gimme’ game, but we had to work for it until our defense stepped in and shut them down,” Sanders said.

    Clevenger and Lyman scored their second goals of the contest to give UCSD a 5-3 lead at the break, but the Seawolves were there once more, pushing out another two goals to even up the game before Frazer’s goal put the Tritons on top. Eventually, the UCSD defense took the game into its own hands, shutting down the Seawolves for the rest of match while Lyman, Bajorek and senior two-meter Natalie Hockett each added a goal to advance UCSD to a 9-5 win.

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