UCSD Polo Earns Third Place in West

The UCSD women’s water polo team closed out its season with an overall record of 19-14 and a third-place finish in the Western Water Polo Association Championships on April 27 to April 29. Loyola Marymount University was this year’s champion.

The 15th-ranked Tritons first beat out 20th-ranked Cal State Bakersfield, 12-9, on April 27, followed by a devastating one-point loss in overtime to ninth-ranked UC Davis 6-7 on day two, and then settled into third place with their 7-5 victory over 16th-ranked Santa Clara University on the final day of the tournament.

“”I think we were a lot closer this year as a team,”” senior two-meter defense Natalie Hockett said. “”And that really helped us when it came to game time because when you know someone better on a friend level it’s easier to gauge how much they can handle and who is the best person for each situation.””

Though the UCSD squad didn’t earn the national bid it was hoping for this season, its improvement from fourth place last year along with numerous individual awards still give the team something to be proud of.

Three members of this year’s team were selected to the WWPA All-Conference Team.

Senior two-meter defense Sarah Bajorek earned First Team honors as the point leader for her team with 69 goals along with 60 steals. Bajorek’s career-high 155 steals also put her in a tie for sixth all-time in UCSD’s program history.

Natalie Hockett and her sister, junior goalkeeper Kim Hockett, were both honored on the Second Team. Natalie Hockett scored 54 goals and made 29 steals and 14 assists. She also set a new school record for single-season penalties with 16 drawn this year, while Kim Hockett, who was the primary goalie throughout the season, recorded 221 saves for the Tritons.

“”It’s nice to know that the other coaches notice and give you some recognition for all the hard work through the year,”” Natalie Hockett said.

After an impressive high-scoring 12-9 win over Cal State Bakersfield, due in large part to six goals by Natalie Hockett and four by Bajorek, the Tritons advanced to the semifinal round in what was sure to be a tough match against UC Davis.

“”We were working a lot on our offense toward the end of the season,”” Natalie Hockett said. “”We were able to dictate the game and capitalized on our opportunities.””

Against UC Davis, the Tritons came within one minute of upsetting the Aggies. UCSD was leading 6-5 at the end of the fourth quarter when UC Davis scored with 42 seconds remaining in the game to push it into overtime.

The Aggies scored first in the overtime period and the Tritons were never able to match them, handing the 7-6 win to the Aggies.

Triton goalkeeper Kim Hockett was a force to reckon with during the tournament with 17 saves – seven of which took place in the fourth quarter alone.

“”I was disappointed after [the loss],”” Natalie Hockett said. “”This was a really physically aggressive and tough game that could have gone either way but unfortunately we were on the losing end, and once that happened, we no longer had a chance to make it to nationals.””

The Tritons didn’t allow their disappointment to ruin their chances of making it into the top three in the conference, however, as they took on Santa Clara University the following day in the third-place game.

UCSD had lost to the Broncos by only one-point margins in the two times the teams faced each other during the regular season, 9-10 on Feb. 25 and 4-5 on March 31, but the Tritons were determined to make up for the close losses to show them who deserved the bronze title.

“”We knew we should have beaten them all year long,”” Natalie Hockett said. “”They just happened to catch us at the end of a long weekend in Irvine and in Davis, when we didn’t have an amazing weekend either. I was confident the entire game that we were going to win, it was just a matter of by how much.””

Three of the four senior players who will not be returning next season scored in the final games of their collegiate career. Bajorek led the team with three goals, followed by Natalie Hockett with two goals and one each for senior two-meter defense Britta Nordstrom and freshman utility Stephanie Bocian for the 7-5 win over the Broncos to cap off the final game of a ground-breaking season.