Top-Ranked Opponents Rain on Final Road Trip

Daniel Caddell/Guardian
UCSD will host its annual Senior Day prior to the Nov. 7 match against Santa Clara University (Daniel Caddell/Guardian).

MEN’S WATER POLO — Haunted by early deficits in both matches, the No. 11 Tritons fell to two top-10 opponents in their final road trip of the regular season. UCSD was edged out by No. 8 Cal State Long Beach 7-6 on Oct. 30 before falling 11-6 to No. 6 Loyola Marymount University on Oct. 31.

The two losses dropped UCSD’s record to 11-13 entering the team’s game this Saturday against Santa Clara University.

“It’s always a challenging roadtrip anytime you’re going to play an [Mountain Pacific Sports Federation] opponent on Friday night and then face our rivals the next day,” head coach Denny Harper said. “I’m pleased with our effort Friday. Saturday, not so much.”

UCSD entered its game against Western Water Polo Association rival Loyola Marymount University riding a nine-game losing streak against the rival Lions squad, which spans across three seasons. From the outset, there was little sign the Tritons would break their LMU slump this weekend.

“LMU has three skilled offensive players,” Harper said. “Not surprisingly, two of them are foreigners who are tough for us. They are also really strong in the goal with [goalkeeper] Andy Stevens, who is very difficult to score on.”

The Lions shut down UCSD’s offense at the start of the game, holding the Tritons scoreless in the first quarter while taking a two-goal lead. Junior driver Sean Cruz got UCSD on the board in the second — cutting LMU’s lead to 2-1 — but the Lions answered back with two goals before halftime.

Playing from behind, the Tritons were able to keep pace with the Lions and pull within 7-5 after senior driver Sean Roberts’ goal, with 7:18 left in regulation. Still, the Tritons could not stand up against the relentless Lion attack, allowing four LMU goals in the final seven minutes.

The Tritons had more six-on-five opportunities than the Lions, but were less efficient in the conversion rate. UCSD went 4-for-9 in man-up situations, while LMU was 4-for-5.

UCSD had suffered a one-goal loss to non-conference opponent Cal State Long Beach the night before. The team struggled at the start of the contest, falling behind 4-2 at halftime. After both squads added a score in the third period, they entered the final period with the 49ers nursing a 5-3 lead.

With renewed energy, UCSD scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to erase Cal State Long Beach’s advantage. The 49ers regained their lead with a long shot from 10 meters out, then added an insurance goal late in the period to bring the game to 7-5.

“It was a good game for us because we mixed up our defense a lot,” Harper said. “Long Beach has one of the premier two-meter men in the nation, and we did a great job on him. Senior two-meter Peter Greshman absolutely outplayed him … It’s too bad we lost, but I was pleased with the effort.”

The 49ers goalkeeper had an excellent game with 16 saves throughout the match. Junior driver Bryce Madsen led the Tritons offensively with three goals.

UCSD now returns home for its final homestand and its first and only game at Canyonview this year, due to untimely construction. The Tritons will honor six seniors before their match against Santa Clara University on Nov. 7 at 12 p.m.

“It’s going to be our one and only big home game of the year,” Harper said. “Students have done a nice job and worked hard getting to the Coggan Complex, but this is different since it’s right on campus … It’s going to be a close game and I’d love to give the win to the student body.”

Readers can contact Janani Sridharan at [email protected].