No. 15 UC San Diego Falls Just Short to No. 6 UC Irvine in a Fourth Quarter Comeback Effort


Alan Ding

In their first Big West home game of the season, the 15th-ranked UC San Diego Women’s Water Polo team (5–13, 0–2 Big West) fell just short to the sixth-ranked UC Irvine (10–6, 2–0 Big West) by a score of 10–9. It was an up and down game of runs; however, the UCSD Tritons never led and ultimately the late comeback attempt was just not enough. 

Although it was a wet and rainy night at Canyonview Aquatic Center, the lively student section and band created an energetic atmosphere — and spirits were high. The scoring started early as UC Irvine scored just 45 seconds into the first quarter. Unfazed, the Tritons quickly responded on the other end as sophomore Courtney Okumura scored a goal of her own.  

It was all Anteaters for the rest of the first, as the Tritons tried and failed to score another goal. 3 different Anteaters players netted a goal as UCSD struggled to play consistent defense, ending the quarter down 4–1.

The second quarter fared better for the Tritons as they went head-to-head with the Anteaters, tying the quarter 3–3. UCSD started off strong with 2 goals from redshirt sophomore Caroline Christl and junior Annika Arroyo. An Anteater player then caught fire, pouring in 2 goals to halt the Triton attack. Both teams traded goals before the end of the half as the Tritons entered halftime down 7–4. 

The third quarter was a defensive battle, but the Tritons won this one by a tally of 2–1. Sophomore Kendall Thomas, who scored UCSD’s last first half point, picked up right where she left off. She scored her second goal of the game 2 minutes into the third quarter, giving the Tritons real momentum. After trading goals at the 5-minute mark, both keepers played tight defense, allowing zero goals at the end of the third. Sophomore goalkeeper Lexi Stahl had some impressive stops for the Tritons as she racked up 10 saves for the game, edging the Anteaters keeper by one. 

The Tritons entered the fourth quarter down 8–6 as they prepared for a difficult, but not unfeasible, comeback attempt. However, 2 quick goals from UC Irvine star and redshirt sophomore Elena Flynn seemed to doom the Tritons as they trailed 10–7 with just 4 minutes left in the game.

Not done yet, Christl seized a penalty shot opportunity with just under 2 minutes left, rocketing in a skip shot into the right corner past the outstretched arm of the keeper, giving her a hat trick and drawing the Tritons within two to keep their hopes alive. Then, Thomas, like she had done all game, scored when the Tritons needed it the most with 57 seconds left in the game, cutting the deficit to one and drawing the crowd to its feet. 

Desperately needing a stop, Stahl did just that, notching her 10th save of the game and giving the Tritons one last chance to tie and potentially go to overtime. Following a timeout, the Tritons passed the ball around as the clock ticked down. The Anteaters swarmed defensively and needing to get a shot off, Okumura fired off a shot from the far right side only to be deflected by the Anteater fifth-year goalkeeper Erin Tharp. The last seconds expired as the Tritons came close but couldn’t finish well enough to complete the improbable comeback. 

When asked about his team’s effort and performance in the fourth quarter, UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp said he would give his team an A grade for giving them a chance down the stretch to tie the game. He praised the incredible performance of UC Irvine’s Flynn who accounted for a game high of 5 goals and mentioned that the Tritons needed to be better defensively and more consistent for all four quarters. Although the Tritons struggled early, their improved play was evident in the second half adjustments as they outscored the Anteaters 5–3 in the second half. 

Despite the loss, the Tritons still shined throughout the game with Thomas scoring a team high 4 goals and Christl scoring a hat trick as well. Okumura’s strong performance was also a huge boost to the team, adding 4 assists to her 1 goal. 

UCSD won’t have to travel far for their next games as they will play at California State University, Fullerton after playing four games the March 11-12 weekend. The Tritons will continue Big West play with a chip on their shoulder as they attempt to avoid the narrow losses that have plagued them so far this season. 

Photos by Millie Root for The UCSD Guardian