Water Polo Takes Home Opener

WOMEN’S WATER POLO — It was a hard-fought game, but the No. 17 UCSD women’s water polo team pulled off the victory in its home opener with a 9-8 win over Long Beach State. The score was tied until the last three minutes, when junior hole set Kirsten Bates scored and the Tritons held on to defeat the 49ers in the their first game in Canyon View Pool this season.

“Long Beach has been a pretty good rival for us the last couple of years,” head coach Brad Kreutzkamp said. “The last four games, all but one have been decided by one goal, and one went into overtime. So we knew it was going to be a close game right from the beginning, and we were prepared for that.”

The game was close until the very end, with neither team being able to pull away from the other. The score was tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter and 5-5 at the half. In all, the lead changed four times in the game, and neither team ever had a lead of more than one point.

With the score tied 5-5 at halftime, Bates took over the game. Long Beach came out quick and scored in the first three minutes of the half to take the lead, but began slipping when the team started committing penalties and getting ejected.

Bates took advantage of the 6-on-5 opportunities and scored off a 49ers turnover to tie it up at 6-6 less than 30 seconds after the 49ers took the lead. Long Beach State received another ejection half way through the quarter and Bates scored her second goal of the quarter off of a Crowell assist to give UCSD the lead.

Starting with the lead in the fourth quarter, the Tritons narrowly missed blowing the game open when a series of shots just missed their mark or were blocked by the 49ers goalkeeper.

It almost seemed as though LBSU could stage the comeback and push the game ever further when they scored in the first minute of the fourth, but junior utility Natalie Peng led a quick strike back against the 49ers and scored less than 30 seconds later.

The game was locked at 8-7 for most of the fourth quarter before the 49ers scored, with just under three minutes to go, to tie the score at 8-8. But the Tritons would answer quickly. Long Beach State received another ejection for physical play, and Bates again took advantage of the 6-on-5 opportunity. She scored her third goal of the game, and the goal that created the difference between the two teams.

“6-on-5 is one the top ways of scoring goals, so we were work on it constantly,” Kreutzkamp said. “If we don’t convert our 6-on-5s we’re probably not going to win the game.”

Long Beach pulled out all the stops in the last two minutes, but thanks to an amazing block by junior goalkeeper Kirsten Oshtosh with time winding down, the Tritons held onto the victory. It was her 10th block of the day, and the one that sealed the one-goal victory.

“When we scored the last goal…I felt confident because our defense had been good most of the game,” Kreutzkamp said, “And it proved true, because we held them the rest of the game.”

Senior attacker Felicia Orozco had two goals in the first quarter for the Tritons, while fellow senior attacker Hanalei Crowell added two goals of her own.

The Tritons open Western Water Polo Association play on Friday against Cal State East Bay at Canyon View Pool at 6 p.m.

They will also host the Triton Invitational Tournament this Saturday and Sunday, a 16-team, two-day tournament featuring some of the best teams in the state.

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected]