UC San Diego’s 10th-ranked women’s water polo team (7–3, 2–0 Big West) scored last-second game-winners in two tight home matchups against the No. 12 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (3–5, 1–1 Big West). The first win came in a triple-overtime nailbiter, with senior center Ciara Franke scoring the sudden-death game-winner with three seconds remaining to win 7–6, and in the second match, freshman utility player Annika Arroyo scored with just two seconds to go in regulation to win 6–5.
In the first match of the series on March 26, the Gauchos got on the board first, scoring a couple minutes into the game to take the lead. But UCSD senior utility player Jessee Ransone responded with a goal of her own to tie the match at 1. Soon after, UCSB once again took the lead, but Triton senior utility player Sydney Boland took advantage of a power play to tie the match up once again at 2.
That cycle continued in the second period, as the Gauchos’ Leigh Lyter scored quickly to open the period, but Franke knotted the game back up with a score with 5:39 to go in the second. Two minutes later, Franke scored again to put the Tritons up for the first time on a power play; but UCSD could not convert a subsequent penalty, and UCSB got an equalizer of their own to send the tied game into the third period, 4–4.
The Tritons took the biggest lead of the game to start the second quarter, as goals from Ransone and Arroyo put UCSD up 6–4. But a Gaucho goal late in the third period closed the lead to one, and in the fourth quarter, UCSB tied the match up at 6 with 4:43 remaining in regulation. While both teams desperately searched for a game-winner for the next five minutes, neither team could get the score they needed, sending the match into overtime.
Neither squad could score in the first two overtimes despite each team getting a power play. It seemed like it would be much the same story in the third overtime; despite a UCSB power play off a Ransone foul, the final seconds were ticking off the clock with the score still 6–6. But with just seconds to go in the period, senior attacker Grace Pevehouse got the ball in Franke’s hands, and her shot made it past the Gaucho goalie for her third goal of the night, this one a walk-off game-winner.
Franke’s shot was the second sudden-death game-winner for the Tritons this season, the other being another triple-overtime goal from Pevehouse to defeat rival San Diego State University in the season opener. Franke led UCSD with 3 goals, followed by Ransone with 2. On defense, the Tritons prevented UCSB from scoring on any of their ten power plays, and senior goalie Bennett Bugelli had 13 saves.
The second game of the weekend, this one a non-conference matchup, began as a mirror image of the previous matchup, as this time it would be the Tritons who would go ahead three times, with the Gauchos scrambling for equalizers. When UCSD senior attacker Tera Richardson scored a power-play goal four minutes into the action, UCSB notched a power-play score of their own; Arroyo put the Tritons up 2–1 with 50 seconds remaining in the period, but just 13 seconds later, UCSB equalized. Then, with only 10 seconds left in the quarter, Triton sophomore defender Karis Couch scored to end the period with UCSD up 3–2.
The Gauchos would equalize on a power-play goal off of a Richardson foul midway through the second quarter, and they had a chance to take the lead on a penalty shot caused by a Franke foul. But Bugelli stuffed the penalty with her left hand to keep the game on even terms. Late in the third quarter, however, the Gauchos would finally go ahead 4–3, and they held onto that lead until the fourth quarter. Halfway through the fourth, Boland came up big with the equalizer for the Tritons with 3:51 to go in regulation.
It seemed like another overtime was in the cards late in the fourth, as no go-ahead score had arrived with under a minute remaining. But Franke, fresh off her heroics in the last match, scored her first of the day to put the Tritons ahead 5–4 with just 28 seconds to go. The Gauchos weren’t out of it yet, though, as they came out of a timeout and tied the game at 5 with just 11 seconds to go. With overtime looming, in just nine seconds, Pevehouse directed the ball to the freshman Arroyo, who scored with just two ticks left on the clock to hand the Tritons another exhilarating win, 6–5.
“I’m super proud of their constant efforts to never give up,” UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp told UCSD Athletics about his team. “Having the freshman score the winning goal, I think it just says the depth of our team, and I could not be more happy.”
The game-winner was Arroyo’s second goal of the day; meanwhile, Pevehouse assisted on a last-second walk-off goal for the second match in a row. Bugelli had 11 saves, including the crucial second-quarter save on a UCSB penalty.
The pair of wins puts the No. 10 Tritons in first place in the Big West with a 2–0 conference record, and they improve to 6–1 at home. UCSD will try to improve its conference record and continue a three-game win streak next weekend, as they travel to UC Davis for an April 2 doubleheader against the No. 11 Aggies.
Image courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics