Conference Champions

        Fourth-seeded UC Davis fought its way past first-seed Loyola Marymount — the defending conference champions — to reach the title match. On the other side of the bracket, second-seed UCSD topped Claremont-Mudd Scripps 12-8 in the quarterfinals and Santa Clara 10-2 in the semifinals.
       
    Receiving a first-round bye, the Tritons entered the quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 18 against seventh-seed Claremont. UCSD jumped out to take the lead in the opening quarter, putting the score at 4-1. The Tritons pushed the lead out to 6-2 in the second quarter, but Claremont rallied in the third to pull within two points. UCSD was able to hold the advantage behind senior goalkeeper David Morton’s eight saves and two big goals from senior driver Graham Saber in the fourth quarter.

        With the 12-8 win, the Tritons advanced to the semifinal bout against Santa Clara.

        Scoring in its first possession of the game, UCSD never trailed as the team cruised to a 10-2 win over the Broncos (18-17 overall).
        Saber recorded another four goals against Santa Clara, while Morton recorded an outstanding 14 saves.

        “We were very confident going into this thing,” said head coach Denny Harper after the match. “It was a complete game for us and I’m really stoked about how our bench play came through for us.”

        Riding the momentum off of their win against Santa Clara, the Tritons came out hot against UC Davis.

    “We knew it was going to be a fight to the death,” said junior Brian Donohoe. “We knew we had to give it everything we had, and that if we didn’t come out strong, we weren’t going to have a good chance of winning.”

    The Tritons went up 3-1 in the first quarter behind back-to-back goals from Saber. UCSD held the advantage until the Aggies tied the game up at seven with just over three minutes left to play.

        With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, the Aggies managed to outscore the Tritons 3-0 to tie the game at seven. Then, sophomore driver Josh Stiling won the ball in front of Davis’ net and hammered home the game winner.

        “I’ve got to hand it to [Steve] with the uniqueness of that second group that he had, but we certainly had enough to finish it,” Harper said of Davis’ reserves after the match.

        The Tritons had three All-Conference first team selections: junior utility John Butler, Saber and Morton — tournament MVP. Junior utility was selected for the All-Conference second team.

       Winning his 15th conference title, Harper was awarded the conference coach of the year award.

        As the winner of the conference tournament, the Tritons receive the automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament to be played on Dec. 3-4 at UC Berkeley.

         “I’m happy for these guys because it has been a while since we’ve had any student athletes experience what we call going to the ‘Big Show,’” Harper said. “And for them to experience what they’re about to experience is pretty goshdarn good.”
                  
    Readers can contact Rachel Uda at [email protected]

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