League Championships Await No. 2 Triton Women in Bakersfield

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    WOMEN’S WATER POLO — After finishing the regular season with a conference record of 8-2, UCSD will now enter the Western Water Polo Association Championships as the No. 2 seed.

    Standing in their way is top-seeded Loyola Marymount, which boasts a perfect 8-0 conference record and beat the Tritons in their only matchup this season by a score of 10-4 on Feb. 20. Since that time, the Tritons have risen in the polls from unranked to No. 18 in the nation — while LMU has remained steady at No. 8.

    “Our team goal is to win WWPAs,” senior utility Stephanie Bocian said. “Our first game is this Friday against Sonoma State, and we try to take it one game at a time. Since all these games are very important, we try not to overlook any competitors. Our hopes are to play LMU in the conference championships and win, but we haven’t talked about LMU directly.”

    The Tritons closed out their regular season with mixed results, routing Chapman University 15-1 on April 16 before falling to San Diego State 11-3 at the annual Harper Classic on April 23. The two matches were the team’s final home games of the season, as they prepared to travel to CSU Bakersfield for the WWPA Championships from April 30 to May 2.

    On April 16, No. 13 SDSU maintained its dominance over the Tritons, winning its 10th straight Harper Classic to remain a perfect 10-0 in the annual cross-town matchup. SDSU scored early and often, netting the first four goals of the game before senior Triton attacker Audra Bloom put UCSD on the board with 4:23 left to play in the first half.

    UCSD didn’t score again until the fourth quarter, by which time the Aztecs had converted six goals to take a commanding 10-2 lead. Bloom and sophomore attacker Jessica Tran scored twice for the Tritons in the loss.

    “That was a rough game that was not expected at all,” Bocian said. “Most of us felt pretty prepared for the game, but it didn’t show when we played… We want to move on from that game and not really think about it. It’s kind of embarrassing on our part. We’re moving forward and are very concentrated on the WWPAs, which is what ultimately matters the most.”

    A week earlier, the Tritons saw a much different outcome at home against Chapman. Backed by a strong outing from senior goalkeeper Markayla Quane on Senior Night, the Triton offense attacked the Panthers with a steady onslaught of scoring. The win was a significant leap for the Tritons, who had previously lost three out of four games at the Santa Clara Invitational in mid-April.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    “We obviously wanted to win against Chapman because it was a conference game and because it was Senior Night,” Bocian said. “But I don’t think the win really changed anything.”

    Senior utility Stephanie Heinrich scored within the first minute of the match. UCSD went on to score 10 unanswered goals over most of three quarters, before Chapman answered with a lone goal at the end of the third period. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Allie Taylor replaced Quane entering the final period, shutting out the Panthers to seal the 15-1 Triton victory.

    Heinrich led all scoring with three goals. Junior attacker Hanalei Crowell, freshman attacker Audrey Mitchell and junior utility Kelsey Schultz added two apiece.

    Ten different Tritons scored in the match, including all of the team’s seniors who participated.

    “I enjoyed playing with all the seniors,” Bocian said. “All of us started, which doesn’t normally happen. It gave us a chance to reflect on our last four years, because it’s the last time all of us will really get to play together like that.”

    As the No. 2 seed — an improvement from last year’s No. 4 spot — the Tritons have a bye in the first round of the WWPA Championships.

    They will face the winner of the showdown between No. 7 Sonoma State and No. 10 Chapman at 3:40 p.m. on April 30. LMU will face the winner of the No. 8 CSU San Bernardino matchup and No. 9 CSU Monterey Bay at 5 p.m.

    The Tritons finished their regular season with an overall record of 16-18, which included a seven-game win streak from March 27 to April 9. LMU finished at 24-4, a program best.

    Readers can contact Janani Sridharan at [email protected].

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