Thrilling Win Rings in Homecoming

    Picture 41MEN’S WATER POLO — Playing their first game in Canyonview pool since early September, the No. 11 Tritons closed out their regular season with an afternoon to remember.

    Facing off against No. 14 Santa Clara University, UCSD junior driver Bryce Madsen scored an overtime goal to earn an exciting come-from-behind 14-13 victory on Nov. 7.

    “It’s a pretty gray day today, but to me, it feels like it’s shining,” head coach Denny Harper said after the game.

    As the final regular-season game before the Tritons head to the Western Water-Polo Championships from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, the win may play as a key factor in seed determinations for the playoffs.

    “The game definitely had conference implications,” Harper said. “Had we lost, there would have been an argument for us to be the No. 4 seed. Now, we should be No. 2 — and that’s a big difference there. No one wants to play in the [No. 4 vs. No. 5] game to start the tournament.”

    Following a short ceremony honoring UCSD’s six seniors, the game got underway and the Tritons quickly fell behind. Failing to score in the first period, the team found itself in a 2-0 hole by the start of the second period.

    Senior two-meter defender Steven Donohoe put UCSD on the board early, taking a pass from sophomore utility Lance Curtiss and netting a goal from the two-meter mark.

    After the teams exchanged goals, the Broncos took advantage of a lucky deflection, extending their advantage to 5-3 with 3:59 left in the half. Santa Clara University found the goal again with just under a minute until halftime, extending the Broncos’ lead to a game-high three scores.

    However, after some quick ball movement from the Tritons, Curtiss sank the ball into the corner of the cage to bring the score to 6-4.

    UCSD charged out with renewed energy in the third quarter: Junior driver Bryce Madsen used an assist from Curtiss to lob the ball cross-cage on the Tritons’ first possession, cutting Santa Clara University’s lead to one goal.

    The game remained close throughout the quarter, both teams matching each other goal for goal. With a 10-9 Bronco advantage and less than one minute to play in the third quarter, senior two-meter defender Peter Gresham skipped a shot into the goal to tie the match at 10-10.

    In addition to his score, Gresham’s defense played a key role in the Tritons’ success in the match’s second half.

    “We changed to a helping-style defense at halftime, which proved to be a significant change,” Harper said. “It was a different ballgame after that. There was a lot more outside shooting. In the first half, Santa Clara’s two-meter men got the best of us. But in the second half, Peter Gresham outplayed them. The kid never gets down — he’s so positive.”

    The Tritons wasted little time getting on the board in the final period of regulation. Following a Santa Clara University kickout on UCSD’s counterattack, Harper called a timeout to give the Tritons a full 6-on-5 possession.

    Once again, Gresham came up big, scoring from the post after a perfectly placed pass from junior driver Sean Cruz. With 6:58 on the clock, UCSD got its first lead.

    The Broncos stormed back, however, scoring three straight goals over a period of four minutes, taking a 13-11 advantage with 2:33 left in the game.

    With just over a minute left, as the Tritons’ hopes of victory dwindled, Donohoe took advantage of a man-up situation to net a close shot from directly in front of the goal.

    Still one goal behind, Donohoe once again found himself with the ball on a Triton counterattack, and passed to a teammate who was holding position in front of the cage. The ref blew the whistle and held up five fingers —indicating a UCSD penalty shot.

    Donohoe sank the five-meter shot into the lower corner to send the game into overtime.

    With renewed momentum, Madsen scored halfway through the first five-minute overtime period on a thrilling Triton six-on-five opportunity, handing his team the victory.

    “Obviously, the team was very resilient,” Harper said. “It was a tough ballgame against a very good team, and we had to scramble to pull that one out. It was a great comeback, and I’m so thrilled for our six seniors. And we’re undefeated at home this year, because this is our real home.”

    UCSD will play two exhibition games at Canyonview on Nov. 14 —against Sunset and the San Francisco Olympic Club — as they wait for word on their postseason seeding for the WWPA Championships.

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