LOS ANGELES – No. 12 UC San Diego scored seven second-half goals, including five in the final period, but fell short in the 2014 National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship opener to No. 2 UCLA, 12-8, at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center Friday.
The Tritons, making their third appearance in program history at the NCAA Championship, played well but fell victim to a slow start to lose in the opening round for the third time.
UCSD falls to 27-11 overall and will play No. 6 UC Irvine, who lost to No. 4 USC 14-11, in the loser’s bracket game tomorrow at noon. UCLA improves to 26-4 and will face MPSF foe USC in the semifinals at 5:45 p.m.
“We wanted to make sure we gave everything we could and make them work for anything they got—I think we did that,” said head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. “We didn’t play mistake free but we never quit. I was definitely happy about the effort out there today.”
UCLA drew an ejection on the second possession of the game, with one second left on the shot clock, and turned the advantage into a goal to jump ahead 1-0. The Bruins cashed in another goal to lead 2-0 early.
The Tritons jumped on the scoreboard after Julia Kirkland powered home a shot from the outside on a man-up advantage to cut the UCLA advantage to 2-1 after the first period.
The Bruins followed with a strong second quarter, holding UCSD scoreless and scoring three times to lead 5-1 at the intermission.
“In order to beat that type of team, we have to come out playing relaxed,” said Lizotte. “I’m not sure we did that early but we did coming out of halftime and the early part of the third quarter was probably our best stretch. I’m proud of our effort.”
The Tritons opened the second half with two straight power play goals from Wieseler and Jolene Guiliana to cut the lead to 5-3 to gain momentum.
The Bruins responded, however, and closed the third period on a 3-0 run to extend its lead back to 8-3 as the final quarter approached.
The Tritons closed the game with four of the five goals, but couldn’t get any closer than 11-7. UCSD received two power-play goals from Lizotte and Wieseler in the stretch.
“Our half-court defense and six-on-five offense worked well,’ said Kreutzkamp. “We really wanted to create man-up situations because that is really the only way you’re going to stay in a game with a team like UCLA. We drew seven ejections, moved the ball well during those opportunities and converted five. Those are good numbers.”
UCSD limited the Bruin offense to only two man-up advantages, despite allowing 12 goals.
“Defensively, we gave up 12 goals but weren’t playing poorly," said Lizotte. “They have a lot of weapons but we were in a soft zone and played the way we wanted. They struggled a little against it.”
The loss snapped UCSD’s 10-game win streak. The Tritons still have a lot to play for tomorrow as Lizotte, a senior playing in her third NCAA Championship and has scored 21 career goals at the tournament, looks to improve upon last season’s sixth-place finish, the highest in program history.
“I’d like to finish the weekend with two wins. That’s manageable and placing fifth in this tournament would be a step forward for our program.”