The 12th-ranked UC San Diego women’s water polo team saw a mixed bag of results this past weekend on the first day of the Triton Invitational, hosted by the Tritons at Canyonview Aquatic Center. UCSD had not played for two weeks but looked to build on the previous two wins from their most recent performance at the Lancer Joust. After a promising early win against crosstown rivals No. 18 San Diego State University, the Tritons fell in the afternoon to No. 2 UCLA. The home side was then forced to look to Day 2 of the tournament to make a return to winning form.
UCSD kicked off the weekend with a morning match-up against SDSU that ended 13–10 to the home side. The Aztecs were first to put points on the board just a couple of minutes into the first quarter, but sophomore utility player Annika Arroyo equalized for the Tritons with an effort from distance that skipped past the goaltender into the back of the net. A successfully-converted penalty shot taken by graduate student center Ciara Franke nabbed the lead for the Tritons, who then followed that up with a short-range goal taken right in front of the net by freshman center Kendall Thomas.
The second quarter began with a powerful shot driven into the net again by Thomas just seconds in to put the Tritons 2 points up, a lead that was again shortened by a quick-response goal from the visitors. Each team grabbed 2 more in the period to end the first half 6–5 to UCSD.
A goal by Franke gave the Tritons back their lead after the visitors pulled even early in the second half, the first of 4 consecutive goals scored by the hosts. While the third period was relatively uneventful, the fourth was lively, with 3 of UCSD’s 5 goals coming from Thomas, whose 5 total goals throughout the game led the hosts that morning. The Tritons spent the last few minutes of the final quarter determinedly defending their lead and it paid off. Although they scored 4 of their own, SDSU was never able to get a strong hold on the game and the morning ended in disappointment for the visitors.
Throughout the game, SDSU was chasing the lead the hosts snatched from them early in the first period, but were unable to pull back ahead at any point in the game despite equalizing a few minutes into the second half. Although they finished with a relatively narrow lead, the game decided by only 3 points, the morning was controlled by the Tritons and it looked to be a promising start to the weekend for them.
Unfortunately, they were unable to replicate that result in their afternoon tie against UCLA; the 13–6 loss was a less-than-ideal way to head into the second day of the tournament.
The home side began the afternoon positively, carrying their momentum from the morning to put the first points on the board. Franke continued her strong performance from the morning to push a skipped shot past the Bruins keeper early in the first period, then doubled the Tritons’ lead with another goal just a few minutes later. A goal tossed over the home keeper by UCLA’s Molly Renner got the visitors back into the game as the last goal of the first period. After the break, a penalty, again scored by Franke, was the only point for either team in the second quarter, sending the game to half with the Tritons in the lead 3–1.
Despite their promising start, the Tritons completely lost their grip on the game in the second half, conceding 6 goals in the third quarter to allow the invigorated Bruins to flip the home side’s hard-earned 3–1 lead to a 7–5 deficit. A goal each from freshman utility player Lucia Doak, who had also scored twice in the morning, and junior center Grayson Mix broke up the barrage of attacks on the hosts’ goal, but the Tritons were never able to regain the lead they enjoyed in the first half.
The final period was also high scoring for the visitors, who again put 6 points on the board to widen their lead. The only goal for UCSD, scored by Lucia Doak for her second of the game, broke UCLA’s 3-goal streak, but was followed by another trio of points for the Bruins. Though they doggedly maintained an attacking mindset down to the full-time buzzer, UCSD was limited to the one goal in the final period, the afternoon ending 13–6 in the Bruins’ favor.
It would seem that the halftime pep-talk in the UCLA camp proved exceedingly motivating, as the visitors came out of the gate with an extra determination to wrest back control of the game, and it proved to be too much for the Tritons. Though they put in an impressive shift in the first half, UCSD was unable to keep up with the near-constant assault on their goal and the day ended in disappointment.
After that pair of results on Saturday, UCSD was slated to play UC Davis the next day. They hoped to put this loss against UCLA behind them and get back to their winning ways on Sunday to end the tournament on a high note.
Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / Big West Conference