Men’s Water Polo Falls in Thriller

    Freshman goalkeeper David Morton led the Tritons in a solid first-quarter defense against LMU, giving up only one goal. The defense faltered late, allowing LMU to come back from a 5-1 deficit.

    MEN’S WATER POLO — The packed crowd of excited fans who came out to watch the UCSD men’s water polo match on Sept. 25 could not have asked for a more exhilarating contest. Unfortunately, the Tritons ended up on the wrong side of it.

    Netting a goal in the last five seconds of regulation, No. 7 Loyola Marymount University broke an 11-11 tie to defeat the No. 10 Tritons in a game that UCSD controlled most of the way. UCSD was unable to hold on to a lead against a late-charging LMU team.

    The Lions scored a goal right off the bat on a backhand shot from the two meters, but from that point on, the quarter belonged to the Tritons. With 6:22 left in the period, UCSD capitalized on a six-on-five opportunity as senior driver Adnan Jerkovic found junior driver Jeff Hunt inside for the score. With the game tied at one, the Lions had a chance to get that goal back from the Tritons with a six-on-five of their own. However, freshman goalkeeper David Morton stuffed LMU’s attempt.

    UCSD took the lead on a breakaway goal from junior two-meter Daniel Garcia, who stripped the ball from LMU. The Tritons added two more goals in the period to put the Tritons, putting them up 4-1.

    “We got off to a good start, shooting the ball well,” head coach Denny Harper said. “We caught [LMU] off guard a little bit.”

    The Tritons continued the offensive onslaught early in the second quarter, scoring another quick goal.

    But with less than two minutes remaining in the half and leading 5-1, the Tritons began to unravel. LMU scored back-to-back goals to cut UCSD’s lead to two. With 18 seconds left in the period, the Lions scored a man-up goal to end the half down only 5-4.

    With the momentum on LMU’s side, UCSD had to come out strong in the second half. Senior utility A.J. Kotanjian scored two goals early, giving UCSD a 7-4 lead. The Lions, however, capitalized on UCSD ejections to score three unanswered goals and tie the game at seven.

    With 48 seconds left in the period, Kotanjian drew a penalty shot and junior two-meter defender Donohoe drilled the attempt in the corner of the cage to regain the lead for UCSD.

    “At times our offense looked balanced and at other times it fell apart and we were crowded to one side of the cage,” Donohoe said.

    Even while struggling, the Tritons entered the final quarter with an 8-7 lead, looking to add. Instead, UCSD failed to convert on a six-on-five opportunity in its first possession of the quarter and allowed LMU to tie the game at eight after a counterattack goal with 6:58 left in the game.

    After both teams added a goal, the Lions quieted the crowd with two scores that gave them an 11-9 lead.

    Just when things were looking grim for the Tritons, Hunt drew a penalty shot in the Tritons’ six-on-five offense. With 1:32 left in the game, Donohoe converted on the penalty to cut the Lions’ lead to one goal.

    The Tritons needed one more defensive stop when senior driver Adnan Jerkovic stole the ball away from LMU with 39 seconds left and passed to Hunt, who drew another penalty.

    With the entire crowd on its feet, Donohoe made his third penalty shot and fifth goal to tie the game. The enthusiastic UCSD fans were unable to help the Tritons on the ensuing possession when, following Donohoe’s ejection, utility Tim Hummel of LMU netted the winning shot for the Lions and silenced the still-standing crowd.

    UCSD had four seconds left in regulation to score and send the game into overtime, but the Tritons were unable to get a shot off and settled for defeat.

    LMU’s last goal, which was made in a man-up situation, accentuated the problems that UCSD had on its own six-on-five opportunities.

    “We started out the game two for two on six-on-fives and then we got tired and got away from what we were trying to do,” Harper said.

    The loss brings the Tritons’ record to 10-3 and 2-1 against Western Water Polo Association opponents.

    Coming off the loss, UCSD faces a tough game with Cal State Long Beach on Oct. 2. The Tritons have undoubtedly circled the game against Cal State Long Beach on their schedules considering UCSD has lost their two previous meetings.

    UCSD will then return home to face No. 8 UC Irvine on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

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