Women’s Water Polo Falls Just Short of Finals in Big West Tournament

UC San Diego women’s water polo (20–11, 3–3 Big West) defeated UC Davis (16–12, 3–3 Big West) in a double-overtime match in the Big West conference tournament quarterfinals round on Thursday, 12–11, before losing a close semifinal of their own to the hometown University of Hawaii to end their season.

The Big West Tournament was hosted in Honolulu with UCSD entering as the fifth-seeded team in the conference. The quarterfinals opened with UC Davis jumping out to an early 3–0 lead over UCSD with 40 seconds remaining in the first period. Despite the slow start on both ends of the ball, the Tritons put a stop to the dry spell just before the conclusion of the first, with a goal scored by graduate utility player Taylor Onstott, making the score 3–1 after one. 

Onstott’s goal proved to be the spark that the UCSD Tritons needed for their offense to get going, as they were able to score 4 goals the following period, outscoring the UC Davis Aggies 4–2. The second period saw scoring contributions from senior utility player Holly Maine, sophomore utility player Annika Arroyo, and two goals were scored by freshman attacker Courtney Okumara, knotting up the score at 5–5 after two. 

UCSD’s strong second period performance set the game up for an exciting and competitive second half of play, as both teams did a great job of playing strong defense and responding on the offensive end when either side scored. In the third period, Okumara added to her strong offensive performance by tacking on a couple more goals of her own, and Arroyo contributed by scoring another goal in the period. The third concluded with the Tritons scoring a total of 3 goals and the Aggies scoring 3 as well, including 2 goals from their junior center Noelle Wijnbelt, who had a strong performance with 5 total goals scored. 

Similar to the third period, the fourth consisted of another evenly matched display of tight defense and timely scoring from UCSD and UC Davis. The Tritons received more scoring contributions from Onstott and Arroyo, as well as a late goal scored by freshman utility player Lucia Doak, giving the Tritons an 11–10 lead with 1:37 remaining in regulation. The Aggies responded quickly with a goal from their senior attacker Emily Aikema, tying the game with 25 seconds left and sending it into overtime. 

After a scoreless first overtime period, the Tritons were able to snap the game’s scoring drought in the second overtime period thanks to a last-second penalty shot attempt resulting in a goal by Arroyo, ending the game and sealing a 12–11 victory for the Tritons. UCSD’s graduate goalkeeper Bennett Bugelli finished the match with 11 saves. This win marked UCSD’s first ever Big West tournament victory, as well as their first win against UC Davis this season. 

Friday’s game consisted of the Tritons taking on the top-seeded University of Hawai’i (16–6, 7–0 Big West) in the semifinals round. In the first period Hawaii came out strong, scoring 5 goals to UCSD’s 3. Much of Hawaii’s early scoring came from their freshman utility player Morgan McDowall, who finished the first period with 3 goals scored. UCSD’s Annika Arroyo, Courtney Okumara, and Lucia Doak picked up where they left off in their prior match, each scoring 1 goal in the first period. The second and third periods were very similar to the first, with Hawaii outscoring UCSD in each of these periods. In the second, the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine scored 4 goals, including another from McDowall. Hawaii scored an additional 4 goals in the third period, making their lead 13–8 after three. 

Although the Tritons had to make up quite a bit of ground heading into the fourth period, they showed resilience as they clawed back to narrow down Hawaii’s lead to just 1 with 27 seconds remaining in regulation following a late goal by Taylor Onstott, her third of the game. Shortly after Onstott’s goal, Hawaii’s sophomore attacker Lucia Gomez de la Puente secured their victory by answering right back with a goal of her own with 21 seconds remaining in the game. Hawaii defeated UCSD by a score of 14–12, eliminating the Tritons from the Big West tournament.  

Despite coming up short in the tournament, UCSD’s final game featured another competitive match, concluding an overall solid season for the Tritons. The 2022 Big West tournament concluded on Saturday with the No. 2 ranked UC Irvine (22–6, 5–1 Big West) defeating Hawaii in the final round by a score of 11–8, making UC Irvine champions of the Big West. 

Image courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics

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