Capturing the Cup

    Photo by Alwin Szeto/GUARDIAN
    Photo by Alwin Szeto/GUARDIAN

    The No. 14 Tritons triumphed over SDSU 8–5 to capture UCSD’s first ever Harper Cup in their final contest before they host the WWPA Championships April 25 to 27 at the Canyonview Aquatic Center. Below, the team celebrates the victory. 

    Alwin Szeto
    The team celebrates their first time winning the Harper Cup in the annual matchup’s 13-year history. The Harper Cup is named for current men’s water polo coach Denny Harper, who established the cup while a coach at SDSU. Photo by Alwin Szeto/Guardian

    It took 13 long years and a 21-game losing drought, but the No. 14 UCSD women’s water polo team finally defeated No. 19 San Diego State to capture its first ever Harper Cup last Friday night at the Canyonview Aquatic Center. The 8–5 victory concluded the Tritons’ regular season and marked their first victory over the Aztecs since February 2002. With its seventh straight win, UCSD now holds a 24–10 overall record and looks toward the Western Water Polo Association championships this coming week.

    Friday evening’s matchup kicked off with two quick scores, first from sophomore attacker Julia Kirkland and second from sophomore 2MD Alexis Wieseler. The Tritons shut out the Aztecs in the opening frame to enter the second quarter with an early 2–0 advantage.

    In the second quarter, the Tritons’ offense remained in control as UCSD built up a 5–0 lead before the Aztecs finally broke their scoreless streak with less than three minutes remaining in the period. At the half, the Tritons led 6–2.

    “Going into the game, our team definitely knew it’d be a grind the entire way,” senior utility Leah Gonzales said. “We knew we had to come out energetic and ready to play.”

    In the third quarter, both squads mustered just one score apiece, but UCSD maintained a strong 7–3 lead entering the final quarter. In the fourth frame, the Aztecs jumped out with two goals to cut the edge to a shaky 7–5 score. However, with half of the quarter left in play, Wieseler netted her second goal to strip away the Aztecs’ momentum and seal the cup victory.

    “It was an awesome experience,” senior utility Sarah Lizotte said. “It was an overall great team win. We had four girls score two goals [each] on top of some great defensive plays. Across the board it was a great team effort.”Weiseler, Kirkland and junior attacker Jolene Guiliana finished with a pair of scores. Gonzales led the Tritons defensively and offensively — with two goals and an assist — to earn the Harper Cup Most Valuable Player award.

    “To be honest, I’m still taking it all in,” Gonzales said. “It was really a surprise, and I feel so honored to have even been in the running for it. [It’s] kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

    Gonzales is only the second Triton ever to have earned the MVP award, two years after Lizotte took the honor herself. Lizotte, UCSD’s leading scorer and most consistently productive player, finished with two assists on what was a relatively quiet night on the stat sheet.

    “Leah had an awesome, awesome night,” Lizotte said. “I’m really proud of her. She’s a senior and she works really hard. [Friday] was good for her and for all of us.”

    The Tritons now hope to continue their winning ways as they prepare to host the WWPA conference championships starting Friday, April 25. With a 4–0 record in conference action, the Tritons are in the No. 1 seed and have a first-round bye to start the tournament. While matchups have yet to be determined, the Tritons’ first game will take place on Saturday, April 26 at 3 p.m. at Canyonview Aquatic Center.

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