Sudden Death Goal Puts UCSD on Top

    Junior Daniel Garcia had a total of four goals in four games at the Southern California Tournament. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

    WATER POLO — The UCSD men’s water polo team shook off a demoralizing loss suffered at the hands of UC Irvine at home last week with a strong showing at the Southern California Tournament, held in Malibu, Calif. over the weekend.

    “After we lost to UC Irvine, we couldn’t afford to make any more simple mistakes,” junior two-meter Daniel Garcia. “It was a wake-up call after that game.”

    In a tournament featuring the top 10 teams in the nation, No. 7 UCSD — ranked No. 9 at the start of the tournament — won its first game against No. 10 Cal State Long Beach, putting the Tritons in the top eight of the tournament. UCSD lost its next two games against No. 2 UCLA and No. 6 Loyola Marymount University before winning in sudden death overtime against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara to finish the tournament on a high note.

    After a tough overtime loss to LMU in the third game of the tournament, the Tritons had to turn around and face UCSB in the seventh-place game. The two teams competed in a heated battle, tying nine times.

    In the fourth quarter, the Gauchos pulled out ahead and led by a score of 9-7 with 2:23 left in regulation. But the Tritons fought back with two goals from senior utility A.J. Kotanjian.

    “We had the momentum going into overtime,” Garcia said. “UC Santa Barbara had to play with a defensive mindset and we were ready to score. It was a little bit of an edge.”

    The teams played two overtime periods but, with the score still tied, the game went into sudden death. After the first sudden death period went by with no scores, the Tritons were determined to end the game during the fourth overtime.

    “We really wanted to win in the first possession,” senior driver Adnan Jerkovic said. “It had been four overtimes and we were in sudden death. We won the sprint and took a timeout.”

    The Tritons came out of the timeout ready to score on that possession. According to Jerkovic, UCSD designed a play to go to Kotanjian but when Jerkovic was fouled outside, the play changed.

    “I got fouled on top and didn’t think I had enough room to pass it to A.J.,” Jerkovic said. “I thought I could catch the goalie off guard so I shot the ball cross cage.”

    With the sudden death goal, the Tritons placed seventh in the tournament and were able to upset the higher-ranked Gauchos.

    UCSD was pitted against Cal State Long Beach to start the tournament — a team the Tritons had beaten once and lost against twice already this season.

    “Our number-one goal was to beat Long Beach in the first game and get ourselves in the top eight,” Jerkovic said. “After that, we were underdogs for the rest of our games so we just tried to upset as many people as possible.”

    As important as the win over Cal State Long Beach was, it did not come easy for UCSD. The teams fought hard defensively in the first half, ending the half tied at two.
    “It was classic defensive hard-nosed game, with both teams hustling and playing good defense,” Jerkovic said. “There were some missed shots but for the most part, both teams were locked down on defense.”

    In the second half, the offenses came alive with the game still staying close. The Tritons and 49ers scored two goals apiece in the third quarter to tie the game again at four. UCSD was able to hold a 4-3 advantage in the fourth period and vault itself into the winner’s bracket of the tournament.

    The Tritons’ prize for winning the opener was to face No. 2 UCLA, the highest-ranked opponent they have faced this season. After falling behind the Bruins 5-2 in the first quarter, UCSD held its own and tied the score at six at the half. UCLA was able to overpower the Tritons in the third quarter, however, outscoring UCSD 4-1 to take the game.

    The Tritons split four games against opponents ranked in the top 10 during the Southern California Tournament on Oct. 11 and 12, finishing seventh overall. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

    “The UCLA game shows that our team can compete with anyone on any given day,” Jerkovic said. “Most of the guys on the team think we could have and should have won that game. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we’ve come a long way since the beginning of September.”

    UCSD opened up the second day of play against its chief rival LMU after having lost to the Lions once this season. As in the previous matchup, the Tritons held the lead over the Lions but were unable to stop LMU defensively late in the fourth quarter. The Lions tied the game at 12, sending it into overtime.

    The overtime periods were dominated by the Lions, who outscored the Tritons 3-0 to take the 15-12 victory. UCSD’s overtime loss to LMU made its win over UCSB in the final game even more important.

    “I think it was huge, especially for confidence level,” Jerkovic said. “That game [against UCSB] — win or lose — wouldn’t have mattered that much, but we were exhausted and worn out and it was cold and windy outside … winning that game ended the tournament on a big positive note.”

    The Tritons (13-6 overall) have a tough task ahead of them as they return home to face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. UCSD has had trouble holding on to games at home, having lost commanding leads in its last two contests at Canyonview Pool.

    “We have to stay on the track of playing well,” Jerkovic said. “We have to play the whole four quarters instead of a half or three quarters like we have been doing.”

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