Men's National Collegiate Club Championship
Our club’s first trip to Nationals started early. We arrived in Tucson, Arizona at 3am Friday morning, stumbling into our hotel rooms to grab a few hours of sleep before our first game at 9am. Despite the lack of sleep, we were all excited and ready to represent UCSD on the National stage.
Our first game was against Oregon State University, who struggled immensely against our efficient, team defense. We came out scoring, and did not stop, pulling to an early lead without much difficulty. Everyone got playing time, and a lot of people scored. We ended up winning 14-3, which was a nice way to start the tournament. Joshua Wang was given player of the game for his unstoppable scoring from center position. This was our only game on Friday, so we were able to spend the rest of the day catching up on some much needed rest.
Saturday started at 9 am as well, with us facing the infamous Lindenwood University. We were better rested this time around, and ready to play the school that had beaten our UCSD women’s team during their National’s run last year. The game was always close, with Lindenwood pulling to a 2-1 lead in the first quarter, then a 4-2 lead at half. We never let them score off of counter-attacks, and our defense did well against their offense. Our goals came from Jack Harper in center, and an early goal from Mackenzie Cottle during a man-up opportunity. Unfortunately, we struggled to score as the game progressed. They kept getting kicked out for rough play and some aggressive defense but we were unable to put away our many 6 on 5 opportunities. Our shots were blocked by the goalie or simply hit the bars. They scored only one goal in the third quarter, off of a truly impressive shot from the outside. In the fourth we rallied a little bit, scoring one more goal, but near the end our desperation for steals and goals led to two easy late-game goals for them, sealing the game at 7-3. It was a rough game against a team we really wanted to beat, but in the end our performance was truly admirable. We were the only team at the tournament to hold Lindenwood to single digit scoring. And they went on to win the whole thing.
We then had to play The Ohio State University that afternoon. Our starters went into that game somewhat asleep, defeated after our last loss and fatigued from the amount of time they had played against Lindenwood. We went to an early 3-1 lead in the first, but then faltered and allowed OSU to catch back up. The scoreline was 4-4 at halftime and our starters were heavy in the water. OSU came out scoring in the second half, and our Head Coach Hector Sanchez pulled the starting line. The bench players jumped into the pool with new fire and energy, tying the game back up and continuing to score. Goals continued to come from center Joshua Wang, who OSU could not stop. A mix of players finished out the game strong, and we stormed ahead in the fourth scoring three goals and completely stopping their attempts. We finished the game comfortably 11-7, and our goalie Sachin Okuma was named player of the game--rightfully so, as he had nine saves and kept us in the game from start to finish.
Sunday came with the opportunity at fifth place in the Nation. We played the University of Texas, who came out strong. We fell to an early 3-0 deficit, but soon rallied with tough defense and big shots from centers Josh Wang and Jack Harper. Being down 3-2 at half kindled something in freshman Andrew Burda, who scored two goals in the third quarter and another in the fourth. Our defense stifled them as the game progressed, and late game goals came from Josh Wang, Andrew Burda, and Andy Schade. They however did not give up, and kept the game close until the end. In the end we finished the game 7-6, the same scoreline that won us the regional tournament and sent us to Nationals in the first place. Sachin Okuma garnered player of the game again, as he once again held down the fort with nine saves.
All in all, fifth place is an exciting achievement for us and the club in general. It was our first Nationals and we showed up strong. We let in the least amount of goals overall among all of the teams at the tournament, and we only lost to the team that won first place. I am proud of the team and our accomplishments, and I know this will not be the last time UCSD performs at the National level. Go Tritons!