Tritons Set to Cap Off Bumpy Season at NCAA Tourney


Photo by Megan Lee

Guardian Staff

UCSD slated for rematch against Princeton Tigers today to kick off NCAA tourney.

Photo by Megan Lee
Photo by Megan Lee


Despite having an up-and-down season, the UCSD men’s water polo team found its groove at the perfect time, winning its 18th Western Water Polo Association championship and earning a ticket to the NCAA Play-In round.

But the Tritons did not start as well as they had intended. The then-10th-ranked Tritons finished the Triton Invitational at an average 2–2, and while they dominated the unranked Pomona-Pitzer College and University of Redlands, the Tritons were crushed 1–13 by the fifth-ranked University of the Pacific and 5–16 by the third-ranked UC Berkeley. In spite of the losses, the Tritons were still able to move up in ranking to the ninth spot.

The trend of losing to ranked teams would continue at the UCLA Invitational, unfortunately, as the Tritons dropped their match to UCLA, losing 6–18, soon after they trounced Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 16–6 earlier in the day. The Tritons would remain in the top 10, moving back to the 10th spot.

After beating Fresno State on the road, the Tritons traveled to Stanford to participate in the NorCal Tournament, where they again found themselves leaving with a 2–2 record. But in their last game of the tournament, the Tritons won their first game against a ranked opponent, winning 16–15 in a close match against the 16th-ranked Air Force.

Just three days later, the Tritons engaged in a tight match against unranked Loyola Marymount University. Taking the game to a second sudden-death period, the Tritons ended up losing the match 12–13 in what was a hard-fought battle against their WWPA rivals.

The Tritons entered the SoCal tournament with a 7–7 record, hoping to finally win back-to-back games of the season. That wish would not be granted, however, as they finished the tournament with yet another 2–2 record, winning against San Jose State and the 16th-ranked Santa Clara University, and losing to the sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara and the 14th-ranked Air Force. The Tritons dropped to the 15th rank and a 9–9 record after the tournament’s conclusion.

With the finale of the SoCal tournament behind them, the Tritons had six more regular-season games, all of them against ranked opponents. With their national ranking falling as low as 17th, the Tritons finished off the season going 2–4 in their final stretch, pulling off wins in their rematches against Air Force and Santa Clara. The Tritons had the opportunity to pull of the upset against the number-six-ranked UCSB in the regular season finale but fell in overtime 14–16. The Tritons capped off the regular season with an 11–13 record, good enough for the number-three seed in the WWPA tournament and 16th nationally.

The Tritons certainly know how to win when it matters. Facing off against Santa Clara for the fourth time this season, UCSD came out on top in an 11–9 win, even after being down 6–8 in the third period. UCSD pulled out some more winning magic, pulling off a victory once again against Air Force and winning 10–8, thanks to a pair of goals by senior utility Chase Cockerill in the final period of the game. In the WWPA Championship game, the Tritons faced UC Davis, hoping to get their revenge after losing 7–8 to the 17–7 Aggies earlier in the season. The Tritons got what they asked for, squeezing by with a decisive 6–5 victory in a defensive battle against the top-seeded opponent, improving the Tritons’ season to 14–13 and earning a spot in the NCAA Play-In.

Cockerill lead the team in goals and steals this season with 54 and 47, respectively, while junior driver Nick Alexander led the team with 56 assists in the season. Redshirt freshman goalie Jack Turner held down the fort with 195 saves for the year.

Now the third-seed and 10th-ranked Tritons will face the fourth-seed and ninth-ranked Princeton University in hopes to earn a Final Four match against number-one seed UCLA. UCSD faced Princeton University earlier in the regular season, where senior two-meter Tyler Mancuso scored three goals, but eventually fell 12–9.

The Tritons hope to avenge their loss earlier in the season against the Tigers and earn a Final Four spot on Thursday, Dec. 3 at the University of Southern California.