Loyola Marymount Ends Triton Season in Title Game

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

WOMEN’S WATER POLO — Facing off against the Lions in a highly anticipated conference championship matchup, the No. 18 Tritons fell to No. 8 Loyola Marymount University 13-10 on May 2, officially ending their 2010 campaign.

UCSD advanced to the Western Water Polo Association conference final after defeating Sonoma State University and Colorado State University at the conference tournament in Bakersfield from April 30 to May 2.

“From the beginning of the season, our goal was to get to the championship game,” senior captain Stephanie Heinrich said. “Obviously we wanted to win too, but we had to put in all the hard work just to get there.”

The Lions and the Tritons last battled on Feb. 20 — a game that Loyola Marymount dominated, winning 10-4 against the then unranked UCSD women.

Now boasting a perfect WWPA record, the Lions entered the final game as the favorite after defeating Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Bakersfield.

UCSD scored first, sending the Lions into their first deficit of the tournament. However, Loyola Marymount quickly turned around, netting three scores within one period to finish the quarter with a 3-2 advantage.

The second quarter proved to be treacherous for the Tritons. Unable to contain a persistent offensive attack from the Lions, UCSD was outscored 4-1 in the period — and Loyola Marymount had taken a commanding 7-3 lead by halftime.

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

Led by two goals from senior attacker Audra Bloom, the Tritons swarmed back into the game in the third quarter, using scores from sophomore attacker Jessica Tran and junior attacker Hanalei Crowell to outdo their first-half total. But Loyola Marymount’s offense did not let up, matching UCSD’s four goals to nurse an 11-7 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Tritons outscored the Lions 3-2 in the final period, but the early deficit was too much to overcome, and Loyola Marymount finished with a 13-10 victory.

With their seasons on the line, the two teams engaged in an aggressive face-off, combining for 21 exclusions and three five-meter penalty shots.

Bloom led the Tritons with four scores in the first three quarters, and Crowell scored another three. Lions junior driver Mary Ann Campos led the opposing team with four goals.

Following their second straight conference title — their eighth in the past 10 seasons — the Lions advanced to the NCAA Championships, and will face off against No. 4 UCLA on May 14. The Tritons brought their final overall record for the season to 18-19.

As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, the Tritons were pitted against seventh-seeded Sonoma State on April 30. UCSD quickly fell behind 3-1 in the first quarter, but stormed back with five goals in the second period, outscoring the Seawolves 5-1. Crowell and junior utility Coles both scored goals in the last two minutes of the half, giving the Tritons a 6-4 lead.

UCSD maintained control in the second half, scoring the first three goals after the break and taking a 9-4 advantage late in the third. The Tritons held on in the last quarter for the 10-7 win that advanced them to the semifinal game against Colorado State University.

In the semifinal, the Tritons put up five spots on the scoreboard in the second and fourth quarters. Senior goalkeeper Markayla Quane set the UCSD single-season saves record, propelling the team to its first WWPA Championship game in six seasons.

Heinrich said that despite UCSD’s struggles earlier this year, the program is in a strong place going forward.

“This year has been a huge step for this program,” Heinrich said. “We had a new coaching staff and nobody expected us to do as well as we did, but we knew where we wanted to be. We went from being fourth in conference and not ranked to ranked in top 20 and runner up in conference. It’s a good place for the program to be.”

Readers can contact Janani Sridharan at [email protected].