Last-Second Goal Drops Water Polo

    After suffering a devastating 9-4 loss to the top-ranked team in the West, Loyola Marymount University, on the second day of action in the Western Water Polo Association Championships, the No. 15 UCSD women’s water polo team was determined to beat Santa Clara University to take third place at the tournament. However, the win was swept away from under the Tritons, as Santa Clara’s 2-meter Claire Linney scored a goal in the last 18 seconds to end the game by a score of 6-5.

    Billy Wong/Guardian
    Senior goalkeeper Kaitlin Foe allowed the game-winning goal with 18 seconds left in her final game as a Triton, a 6-5 loss to Santa Clara in the WWPA Tournament on April 30.

    The Broncos came out with a die-hard attitude, as they smacked in three goals early in the first quarter before UCSD’s sophomore 2-meter Judy Eamus retaliated for the first point of the game for the Tritons, bringing it to 3-1 going into the second half.

    “We fell down early due to a defensive breakdown,” junior utility Michelle Perkins said.

    After halftime and two more Santa Clara goals, the Tritons seemed to pick up their energy level and get their heads back in the game, as junior 2-meter Natalie Hockett picked up on the team’s new fire to push out her second and third goals of the game, bringing UCSD only one point behind Santa Clara at 5-4. The slim margin did not last, as the Tritons kept at the back of the Broncos’ heels. They tied the game up at five goals apiece on another goal by Eamus. Unfortunately, with only 18 seconds left in the game and overtime on the horizon, Linney netted a quick, surprise goal, sealing the victory over the host team with no time left for a comeback.

    The final game of the season was upsetting for UCSD, especially for the seniors who won’t be around to avenge it next year. Perkins vented her frustration with the goal that cost her team its final loss.

    “It’s not the way any team wants to end their season, especially as a senior and it being the last game of our college careers,” she said. “It just came down to who wanted it more and they played with more heart.”

    Other Tritons tried to find the brighter side of things.

    “It was a hard-fought game and really competitive,” senior driver Flynn LaRochelle said. “We have always fought until the final second and we did it again this game, regardless of the loss.”

    It was a difficult day for many, though an improvement from UCSD’s April 29 game against Loyola Marymount.

    In the semifinal game, Loyola Marymount seemed to drive its defensive forces into the core of UCSD’s offense and came out with a crushing 9-4 win. The game could have given UCSD a shot at nationals, but the Lions took a sturdy lead of 4-2 by the half-way mark and never looked back.

    “There is lots of intense emotion going into a game like this,” LaRochelle said. “We really wanted to come out and put up a good fight, knowing that conference games are usually pretty aggressive.”

    UCSD’s aggressive play did not lead to goals, as the shots did not find the back of the net.

    According to the girls, it was just a matter of an “off-shooting day.” Each attempt at a goal, aside from the two by Hockett and single shot contributions from 2-meter senior Kirsten Frazer and Eamus, just seemed to meet the body of Lions’ goalie Katie Murray, who made 14 saves and allowed only one goal per quarter.

    “She had a good game,” LaRochelle said. “But more of it was due to misplacement of our shots. We seemed to be feeding them right to her and we had difficulty putting the ball in the net, but a few more corner shots and she wouldn’t have looked so good.”

    Sophomore utility Nicole Hermann agreed that Murray benefited from UCSD’s bad shot selection.

    “We definitely could have put more shots away and made her work a little harder,” she said.

    Sophomore utility Lauren Woods credited UCSD’s defeat to a loss of confidence, as the Lions points piled up in the third and final quarters.

    “We got intimidated and let our confidence drop and started rushing it instead of taking smart shots,” she said.

    Loyola Marymount went on to face UC Davis for the shot at earning the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which ended up in the hands of the Aggies by a one-point victory of 8-7. UCSD seniors, goalie Kaitlin Foe and Perkins made the First All-Tournament Team, followed by Hockett, who received an honorable mention. Despite the two losses in the tournament, the Tritons reflected positively on their season and the areas in which they grew as a powerful unit.

    “What sets us apart is the fact that we don’t have any star players or reliable leaders,” Perkins said. “We really grew as a team, not individually and it really helps having unpredictable people coming in and making things happen.”

    Because of the lack of leadership, however, Perkins worries about who will fill in her and her fellow seniors’ shoes next season, when the team will lose its two captains, a strong center player and a starting goalie.

    “It’s hard enough as is with communication and being able to rely on people to do the right thing at the right time and not being so hesitant to make decisions,” Perkins said. “You can have talent, which they’ve definitely got, but you also need experience for all the different situations we encounter that they haven’t fully established yet.”

    LaRochelle points out that the level of success at the end of the season is not the only thing that is important.

    “This was my favorite team out of all four years of playing for UCSD,” she said. “We played for each other 100 percent. It’s the teammates and the friendships we’ve built that makes it all worthwhile.”

    As the younger players look toward next year, they realize a lot of it is all in the head.

    Hockett agrees that “there is always room for improvement with communication, but what it really comes down to is mental readiness.”

    She doesn’t want to let the last few games hinder this preparedness she seeks for next season.

    “I am very pleased with where we have come,” Hockett said. “I don’t think the final weekend was reflective of our skill level, but we have to let it go, move on, and focus on the next time around.”

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