The UC San Diego Men’s club water polo team traveled to Arizona State University this weekend to compete in the first tournament for the Southwest division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association. After losing a heartbreaking sudden death defeat in the regional semi-final last year to the University of Arizona, the UCSD Tritons returned to Arizona with high hopes of starting the season off right and avenging last year’s losses.
Unfortunately, things would not go as smoothly as the Tritons would have hoped. The first of four games was against host team ASU Sun Devils. The Sun Devils jumped out to an early two goal lead on the Tritons by the end of the first quarter. Not to be left behind, the Tritons rallied back with a high motion offense lead by senior captain Travis Knight to tie the score at half. The Tritons continued to put the pressure on the Sun Devils, with sophomore Billy Cranshaw and freshmen Joshua Wang tallying several points. With time winding down in the fourth quarter and the Tritons up by one, things looked promising. However, the Sun Devils were not done yet. After forcing the Triton shot clock to expire, the Sun Devils put away the equalizer on a counter attack that sent the game into overtime. Overtime saw both teams struggling to gain control, each team only scoring one point. The game carried on into sudden death, with both teams tired from over a half hour of full on play. While the Sun Devils won the sprint, the Tritons quickly forced a turnover and started a last attempt to win the game. Senior Bryan Lee drew a decisive ejection, giving the Tritons the chance they needed. However, a fumbled pass saw that opportunity turn into one for the Sun Devils, who drew an ejection of their own in transition against the scrambling Tritons. The Sun Devils would not fumble their passes, and buried their man up opportunity, giving the Tritons their first loss of the season, 12-11.
With memories of last year’s sudden death lost bubbling to the surface of the Tritons’ minds after suffering yet another one, the Tritons next opponent was the number one ranked team in the nation, the San Diego State University Aztecs. The clouded minded Tritons once again faced an early 2-0 deficit to the Aztec counter attack machine. Despite their previous loss, the Tritons would not give up that easily. The Tritons battled back, with excellent post ups from junior Jacob Stupin and senior Patrick Harding. While the Tritons tied the game at three apiece in the second quarter, the Aztecs held a two goal lead going into the second half. It was at this point the fatigue from the previous game started to wear on the Tritons. The Aztecs continued to press their advantage, slowly expanding their lead. The gassed UCSD team could not keep up, eventually losing the game 12-7.
Despite having one of the worst starts to a season in recent UCSD club history, the Tritons came back on Sunday with a new game plan and a new attitude for a new day. With the previous day’s struggle in the past, the Tritons faced the team who had dealt them such a crushing defeat the previous season, the University of Arizona Wildcats. In a primarily defensive battle that didn’t see too many goals, the Tritons worked together to grind this game out. Using a team orientated defense that provided little opportunity for the Wildcats to shoot, the Tritons held the Wildcats to five goals. When the Wildcats were able to get a shot off, senior goalie Gio Goggia stuffed almost all of them, providing a brick wall in the cage. Senior Andrew Goyler provided much of the offense on the other end, putting away two well placed outside shots. A hard fought garbage goal from sophomore Sean Kim gave the tritons a two goal lead in the fourth quarter. Things once again looked promising for the Tritons, and this time, there would be no successful rallying effort from an Arizona team. The Tritons walked away with a 7-5 victory, getting their first victory of the season. Things had begun to take a step in the right direction.
The Tritons were feeling much better after avenging their loss from last season, and came in feeling good to their next game against the University of San Diego Torreys. The Tritons jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first quarter and never let up. Senior Nick Ratekin provided the dominating presence in two meters, putting away four goals from center. Senior captain Frederick Ferrer also saw success from the center position, scoring one of his own goals from center. The Tritons defeated the Torreys 14-1, showing dominance in both the offensive and defensive aspect of the whole game.
The UCSD Tritons opened their season 2-2. A rough weekend with a lot to learn from, the Tritons are going back to Canyonview Aquatic center to put their heads down and put in the work required to go 4-0 at the next competition. The Tritons will be facing the Aztecs and the Wildcats once again this upcoming weekend at the SDSU Aquatic center, Oct. 8/9.