Championship Weekend

    The Tritons traveled north to Hayward this weekend to participate in the three-day Western Water Polo Association conference championship tournament at Chabot Community College.

    The Tritons lost to Loyola Marymount University 13-7 at home during the regular season and hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season, but were hoping for the best on the final day of the tournament.

    “Just because you haven’t done it yet, doesn’t mean you won’t do it eventually,” head coach Brad Kreutzkamp said. “We just got to get a fast start and put them against the wall.”

    Instead, the Tritons found themselves against the wall, trailing 9-7 and 10-8 early in the fourth quarter. Jessica Tran scored her first goal of the game with 6:32 remaining to make the score 9-8, although Loyola responded with a goal of its own less than 30 seconds later. Tran scored again and senior utility Hanalei Crowell added another goal, tying the score at 10.  Tran then put in her third goal of the quarter with 2:35 left to give the Tritons the lead. Loyola once again tied the game, but goals from Crowell and Katherine Biehle in the final two minutes sealed the win for the Tritons.

    “I haven’t seen more one-sided officiating in a game like this,” Kruetzkamp said.  “We had our top three players major, so we pulled people off the bench, but they came through.”

    The Tritons earned an automatic bid to the 2011 National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championships hosted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., May 13-15. The Tritons also snapped Loyola’s 37-game conference winning streak.

    “I’m on cloud nine, this feels great,” Kruetzkamp said. “We were down two going into the fourth quarter, but we scored six points and shut them down.”

    In getting to the championship game, the Tritons had to face familiar foes. On Friday afternoon, the second-seeded Tritons were matched up against seventh seed Cal State Bakersfield, a team whom the Tritons played and beat twice in the regular season by scores of 13-10 and 14-11. After a very slow first quarter, the Tritons trailed 2-1, but junior hole set Kirsten Bates and freshman utility Sarah Lizotte scored back-to-back goals with 2:18 left in the second quarter to take the lead, which the Tritons would never give back. The Roadrunners scored on their next possession due to an ejection, but Lizotte came back right afterward to reestablish the one goal lead heading into halftime.

    The speed of the second quarter carried into the third quarter, as the Tritons scored three unanswered goals early in the quarter before Bakersfield had an opportunity to respond. But Bakersfield scored to bring the score to 7-4 with one minute left in the quarter, and made a desperation shot in the closing seconds of the quarter to pull within two.

    Lizotte and Crowell scored on the first two possessions of the quarter for the Tritons to take a 9-5 lead. The teams traded goals and Lizotte notched her seventh consecutive hat trick, bringing the Tritons an 11-7 victory.

    “I was excited when I saw we were going to be facing Bakersfield and Santa Clara because we had already beaten those teams,” Kreutzkamp said, “and we could do it again.”

    On Saturday, the Tritons faced off against Santa Clara in the semifinal round. The Tritons had beaten Santa Clara 12-10 earlier in the season, but their most recent matchup was a 9-8 double overtime nail-biter where the Tritons squeezed out a victory after overcoming a first-half deficit.

    The Tritons scored first, but then they slowed down considerably, allowing the Broncos to take a lead and drag it out to 4-2 midway through the fourth quarter.

    “I give credit to Santa Clara and Bakerfield,” Kreutzkamp said. “They knew they had to come out strong against us and they did.”

    But just under halfway through the quarter, senior Felicia Orozco scored to ignite the Triton offense and Bates added another goal with under a minute to play, tying the game at halftime.

    Bates scored first in the third quarter to give UCSD the lead for the first time since the opening minute of the match, but the Broncos were prepared for the Tritons’ speed game and pulled the score to a tie at 6-6 to start the fourth.  Bates again responded as she scored on a 6-on-5 to open the fourth quarter, and junior driver Katherine Biehl scored next to reestablish the two-goal lead. Though Santa Clara did score to bring the game within one point with two minutes to play, Lizotte scored her fifth goal of the tournament as insurance to seal the 9-7 victory. The win put the Tritons into the title game for the second straight year.

    “It’s kind of a relief, but we are the second seed,” Kreutzkamp said. “We’re supposed to be here. But it still feels good to get back to the championship game.”

    Crowell was named MVP of the tournament. She was joined by Bates and Lizotte on the All-Tournament First Team, while Natalie Peng made the Second Team.

    Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].


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