UCSD Hands Over Harper Cup to Aztecs

    The No. 14 UCSD women’s water polo team, which is currently at 13-12 on its season, went 1-2 in its games over the weekend with a breathtakingly close game against No. 20 Cal State Northridge, in which the Tritons edged a 7-6 win on a comeback from three points behind on April 6. They were back in action the following day in another close match against crosstown rivals San Diego State University to fall 8-10 and give the Harper Cup to the Aztecs on April 7.

    Sanh Luong/Guardian
    Senior two-meter driver Britta Nordstrom scored the first goal in the second half for the Tritons in the very close 7-6 win over Cal State Northridge on April 6 when UCSD came back from three points behind to best the Matadors. Nordstrom also leads her team in steals with 50 on the season.

    The SDSU team is Division I and currently ranked seventh nationally, so the odds going into the match against 14th-ranked, Division II UCSD were in the Aztecs’ favor. The Tritons, however, remained positive and were determined to not allow the Aztecs’ accomplishments to affect their own performance in the water.

    Junior goalkeeper Kim Hockett had her own personal motivation to fight hard against the Aztecs considering she used to be one herself before she transferred to UCSD.

    “”State is a good team who has been playing really well this season, so we knew going into the game that we would have to step it up and really play well,”” Hockett said. “”But one thing I love about Harper Cup is that there is a huge rivalry between us and so no matter what the ending results turn out to be, it would be a great game.””

    Sanh Luong/Guardian
    The Tritons split their weekend games, edging Cal State Northridge in a 7-6 thriller on April 6 before taking a tough loss to crosstown rival and Division I opponent San Diego State University by a final score of 8-10 on April 7. UCSD will play in the Loyola Marymount Invitational next on April 13 and 14.

    Tired from coming off of two straight games and the nerves of facing one of the top teams, the Tritons appeared a bit unfocused in the first quarter, allowing the Aztecs to gain a four-goal advantage at the start. The Tritons woke up midway through the second quarter and narrowed the gap to 4-2 before SDSU returned the favor immediately with three more goals before the half for a 7-2 lead at the intermission.

    “”We know we can play with this team, but we were nervous, and on offense we made some choices that weren’t necessarily the best and the ball turned over,”” senior two-meter driver Natalie Hockett said. “”I’d like to have a redo on the first quarter because I know we can beat them. Four of their goals were penalty shots and we were unable to capitalize on our power play.””

    Senior two-meter driver Sarah Bajorek, who is the leading scorer for the Tritons with 53 goals so far this season, helped carry her team in the match with four goals against SDSU. Natalie Hockett was also a major contributor in keeping pace with the Aztecs, scoring one goal and drawing three ejections to set the single-season record for UCSD in penalties drawn with her 13th of the season.

    “”Penalties are probably the easiest goals to make and once a team draws one it is almost assured that they will score,”” Natalie Hockett said. “”Two of the goals made by Sarah were on penalty shots.””

    The Tritons piled on the pressure in the third period, outscoring SDSU 4-2 to cut its lead down to 9-6. In the fourth, the Aztecs made their final move with a 10th goal as the Tritons played catchup and nailed in two shots to come within two points of the Aztecs at 10-8.

    In the last 55 seconds, senior two-meter driver Britta had one last opportunity to bring the score within one goal for the Tritons, but failed to capitalize on the shot.

    “”It was a great move by Britta to get open and get the ball, and of course it was heartbreaking that she didn’t score, but it was an awesome try,”” Kim Hockett said.

    Though the game ended in a loss for the Tritons, their passion was recognizable from the stands. Men’s water polo coach Denny Harper was moved when speaking with the players after the game, telling them that he saw how much heart they had during the game and that he was convinced that it would carry them to victories over Loyola Marymount University and UC Davis in conference matches and allow them to go to nationals for the first time this year.

    “”We were so inspired that it brought a couple of people to tears,”” Kim Hockett said. “”It really pumped us up for the rest of the season.””

    Prior to the Harper Cup challenge, the Tritons boldly demonstrated their abilities in a down-to-the-last-minute 7-6 victory over Cal State Northridge at home in the Canyonview Pool.

    The Matadors held the lead for the majority of the game, including 4-2 at the half and 6-4 through the third quarter, but in the final period, the Tritons outscored Cal State Northridge 3-0 to net the win.

    Junior utility Nicole Hermann put the Tritons on the board just 4 minutes, 21 seconds into the game, followed by two more goals soon after by sophomore utility Bridgette Bugay and Nordstrom. Junior two-meter driver Judy Eamus then fired a perfect cross pass to Natalie Hockett, who launched the ball past the goalkeeper despite challenges from two Matadors.

    “”After she did that, there was a burst of energy in the pool and in the crowd,”” Kim Hockett said. “”I knew from that moment that we would win the game – there was no doubt in my mind.””

    Hockett’s predictions were right on target, as UCSD struck with force in the fourth with a succession of three more Triton goals. Bajorek dealt the final and winning blow with two minutes left in the game for the 7-6 win.

    “”We are just a team that keeps fighting no matter how far behind we may be, and it pays off,”” Natalie Hockett said.

    Next up, the Tritons travel to Los Angeles for the Loyola Marymount Invitational on April 13 and 14 where they will face Cal State Bakersfield, UC Santa Cruz, Colorado State University, Cal State San Bernardino and Loyola Marymount.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal