Tritons Split Non-Conference Matches as Postseason Approaches

WOMEN’S WATER POLO — After a rough end to March, the No. 20 UCSD women’s water polo team recovered nicely in early April, going 2-1 this past weekend. On Friday, the Tritons defeated Brown University 11-9, then went on to defeat Fresno Pacific 10-8 before falling to No. 9 Arizona State 11-8 on Sunday afternoon.

Against the Sunbirds of Fresno Pacific, the Tritons played a younger lineup than usual with the hopes of giving the starters some rest in preparation for Arizona State, but the move didn’t payoff. Though junior utility Natalie Peng scored in the opening quarter, the younger players missed some open penalty shots and the Tritons fell into a 3-1 hole, before the regular starters all came back in. Though the Sunbirds were the next team to score after the large substitution, three goals put the Tritons right back into the game, evening the score to 4-4 at halftime.

The Tritons didn’t let the tie stand for long, as senior attacker Felicia Orozco scored two consecutive goals to establish a 6-4 lead. Both teams traded a pair of goals as the score rested at 8-6 going into the final quarter.

To start the quarter, Fresno Pacific played with the intensity that gave them their initial lead and tied up the game 8-8 in the first three minutes. Just 15 seconds later, UCSD drew a technical foul and scored to take the lead for good. A minute later, Bartow added an insurance goal to make the score 10-8 and the defense held the score steady to give the Tritons the victory.

The Tritons began the match against the Sun Devils coming off a three-game win streak and ready for the competition.

However, the Sun Devils proved to be quick starters, scoring two goals in the first minute before the Tritons could stage any resistance. The Tritons’ defense toughened up in the first quarter, and only allowed one more goal. But the offense could not find a rhythm and went scoreless in the quarter, giving the Sun Devils a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.

In the next quarter, the Tritons improved their chances with freshman utility Sarah Lizotte, who was the first Triton to find the back of the cage. After the goal, Arizona State tried to reposition itself to score, but after the shot went off the goalpost, the Tritons staged a counterattack and junior driver Katherine Biehle drove it through the net.

The Sun Devils scored again with a 6-on-5 advantage to make it 5-2, and were driving in the last 30 seconds, but turned the ball over. The Tritons planned their strike and freshman Melissa Bartow found the goal to make the score 5-3 at halftime.

To open the second half, the Tritons and Sun Devils traded goals, but Arizona State scored four of the next five goals, making the score 10-6 to end the third quarter. The Tritons outscored the Sun Devils 2-1 in the final stanza, but halfway through, Arizona State was in coasting mode, and the Tritons fell 11-8 to the visitors on Sunday night. The Tritons fell to 0-12.

“When you have games that you lose, it’s tough to have the players find things positive that you do in them,” head coach Brad Kreutzkamp said. “We beat Brown and we beat Fresno Pacific, but I don’t think we really played well in those games. We came out with a lot of enthusiasm against some really talented Arizona State players and we really challenged them all over the pool.”

UCSD is back in action next weekend as they travel to Santa Clara to partake in the Bronco Tournament. Their first match is against No. 8 San Jose State at 8 a.m., and it will be the last time the Tritons take on a ranked team in the regular season.

The only conference opponent the Tritons have left to play this season is Cal State San Bernardino and a win against the Coyotes on Sunday will all but assure the Tritons of the second seed in the WWPA Championship tournament.

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected]