Tritons Fall In Fifth Overtime

    MEN’S WATER POLO — Los0ing a game because of a last-minute goal from an opponent is tough for any team to stomach. Having it happen twice in one weekend is enough to shake even the best of clubs. The Tritons experienced the worst on the road last weekend when they fell to two ranked opponents on last-minute or sudden-death goals.

    During one of the toughest weekends on its schedule, the No. 7 UCSD men’s water polo team fell to No. 8 UC Santa Barbara 10-9 in the fifth overtime period on Oct. 24 before being dealt a loss of the same score by No. 6 Loyola Marymount University on Oct. 25. With the losses, UCSD’s record drops to 14-8 and 3-3 against Western Water Polo Association opponents.

    The two matches also mark the fourth time in five games that the Tritons have played in one-goal games or found themselves in overtime. The hotly contested matches could be a sign of how close the top few teams in the nation are when it comes to talent.

    “It’s a great year for parity in water polo,” head coach Denny Harper said. “Even No. 1 USC has seen some close games. LMU almost beat them in overtime a couple of weeks ago.”

    The Tritons, who lost to LMU twice earlier in the season, came out strong against the Lions in the first half even after suffering the five-overtime loss to UCSB. After taking a 3-1 lead at the start of the contest, the Tritons held on to a slim lead at halftime, on top 5-4.

    Senior utility A.J. Kotanjian scored in the first possession of the second half to give the Tritons a two-goal lead, but they were unable to hold off the Lions for much longer.

    After six-on-five scores from each team, the Tritons held a 7-5 lead when LMU began its attack. The Lions scored the next two goals to tie the game, taking away the Tritons’ lead for the first time in the second half.

    With less than one minute left in regulation and the game tied at nine, LMU drew an ejection on the Tritons. The Lions dealt the decisive blow with 42 seconds left in the game, scoring as their six-on-five opportunity expired.

    Playing on the back end of UCSD’s weekend games, the Tritons were undoubtedly affected by the extended game against the Gauchos the day before.

    “There’s no question we had some tired people,” Harper said. “We’re never happy with losing but I was happy with our effort and play against LMU considering what we went through against UCSB.”

    What the Tritons went through against the Gauchos was worse than just an average loss in overtime. Playing without junior two-meter defender Steven Donohoe, who is tied for the most goals on the season for the Tritons, UCSD actually held the lead for most of the game.

    UCSD jumped out to a 4-2 lead at halftime and held on to the two-goal advantage heading into the fourth quarter. After the Gauchos scored another goal, the Tritons looked as if they would be able to hold their one-goal lead. Unfortunately for UCSD, a controversial call gave the Gauchos a chance for a game-tying goal with under five seconds left in regulation.

    “We had the game won in regulation,” Harper said. “The referee purposely gave Santa Barbara a chance at the end of the game when the game should have been over. The time should have expired, but the people at the desk were being really careful in giving [the Gauchos] extra time.”

    UCSB did not waste the chance, tying the game with a goal at the end of regulation.

    The Triton offense came out strong in the first overtime period, scoring twice and putting the Gauchos in a hole. UCSB quieted the Tritons in the second period by scoring a couple goals of its own to tie the game and send it into sudden death. After the first two sudden-death periods went by scoreless, UCSB netted the winning goal to top the Tritons for the first time this season.

    Even though the Tritons were able to score twice in overtime, they had more offensive chances that they were unable to capitalize on. UCSD went 0-3 on six-on-five chances in the five extra periods, allowing the Gauchos a chance to take the game. Still, the shaky officiating was an issue that, according to Harper, went beyond minor disagreements.

    “This referee is kind of known as the ‘Santa Barbara Referee,’” he said. “He did everything he possibly could to help UCSB, and I don’t say that too often.”

    The Tritons will have a chance to bounce back from the tough weekend as they come back home for a double-header against UC Santa Cruz and Pomona-Pitzer University on Nov. 2.

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