Nation’s Elite Rise Above UCSD in Season Opener

Daniel Caddell/Guardian File

WOMEN’S WATER POLO — UCSD traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to open competitive play in the 2009-10 water polo season against a series of top-10 nationally ranked, Division-I opponents at the two-day Michigan Invitational tournament, from Jan. 23 to Jan. 24.

Taking on four top programs in two days proved a difficult task for the Tritons: They lost their first four games of the season.

Heading into the tournament, the Tritons retained senior goalkeeper Markayla Quane, sophomore attacker Jessica Tran and senior utility players Stephanie Heinrich and Stephanie Bocian from last year’s team — all of whom were recently recognized as pre-season All-Americans by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches.

According to head coach Brad Kreutzkamp, the meet provided the players a chance to see where they stood as a team, and to spot weaknesses early on.

“The tournament gives a really good indication to where we need to strive toward because of the good level of competition,” Kreutzkamp said.

In their first match of the tournament against No. 7 San Diego State University, the Tritons lost 8-19. UCSD fell behind early on while the Aztecs scored five goals, closing out the first quarter with a 5-1 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Tritons scored three times, but a 12-save effort from Quane was futile — San Diego State piled on five more goals to seal the win.

Tallying points for UCSD was sophomore two-meter Kirsten Bates with three goals and junior attacker Hanalei Crowell with two.

The Tritons returned to action against No. 10 University of Michigan later that day. Their defense showed improvement against the Wolverines, conceding eight goals fewer than against SDSU. On offense, Heinrich scored two goals at the two-meter point, and attacker Tran scored from five meters away. Although they ultimately lost 8-11, the Tritons finished the match on a high, with four goals in the fourth quarter.

Co-captain Stephanie Heinrich said she felt the game against San Diego State was a learning experience for the team before heading into the match against Michigan.

“We came out and showed off what we worked on,” Heinrich said. “We saw where we made mistakes and how to fix them against Michigan.”

The next day, UCSD fell 6-15 sixth-ranked San Jose State University. The Spartans took a commanding lead of 7-1 by the first quarter. The Tritons could only muster six goals: three from Heinrich, one from senior attacker Audra Bloom, one from senior utility player Stephanie Bocian and the last from freshman attacker Kim McComas.

In the final game against No. 3 UCLA, the Tritons competed evenly with the Bruins early on. UCSD took a 2-1 lead in the first quarter and trailed by only one at halftime. However, the Bruins took a firm command in the second half of the game, ultimately emerging with a 10-4 victory.

Despite the loss to UCLA, Kreutzkamp felt the performance was his team’s best of the tournament, because players were able to familiarize themselves with their contributing roles on the team and gain confidence as a group.

“Playing against such competitive teams, the team responded remarkably well,” Kreutzkamp said. “We just need to continue doing our best and continue to set the right tone to reach the championships.”

The Tritons return to action at the two-day Triton Invitational tournament, where they will host a field of 16 teams at the Canyonview Aquatic Center from Feb. 6 to Feb. 7.

Readers can contact Yvonne Chow at [email protected].

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