LA JOLLA, Calif. -
No. 1 UCLA limited the No. 11 UC San Diego men's water polo team to a single goal in each quarter of play as the Bruins topped the Tritons 9-4 on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Canyonview Pool.
UCSD drops to 14-8 overall while UCLA improves to 17-3 on the year. Sunday's contest was the first time the Tritons had played the No. 1 team in the nation since 2006.
"I thought we put forward a pretty good effort, much better than the last time we had a top team here," said UCSD head coach Denny Harper. "I thought we really made UCLA work throughout the entire game. They knew they couldn't really let their guard down and I'm pleased that we competed."
UCLA raced out to a 3-0 lead after six minutes of play. Josh Stiling got the Tritons on the board with a goal from the left flank to make it 3-1 heading into the second quarter. The Bruins won the sprint out of the break and scored on its ensuing possession to take a 4-1 lead.
UCSD answered its next time down the tank, as John Butler fired a shot inside the right post from about six meters out to bring the Tritons back within two. Stiling forced a turnover to give the Tritons an opportunity to bring it within one, but Matthew Michalko's floater was denied by UCLA goalie Matt Rapacz, who backstroked to flick away the danger.
The game went end-to-end for the next six minutes, but neither team could find the net. Graham Saber hit the crossbar with 2:30 left in the half and UCLA's Cullen Hennessey cracked the post 20 seconds later. However, Griffin White brought an end to the scoreless drought, swimming down the middle of the Triton defense before beating David Morton to the right post to make it 5-2 with 29 seconds left in the second.
Paul Reynolds scored to give the Bruins a 6-2 edge 49 seconds into the second half. UCSD drew an ejection the next time down the pool. On the following play, David Higginson switched the ball from the right to the left side with a long pass to Saber, who fired a shot across goal into the side netting to bring the Tritons within 6-3.
Unfortunately for UCSD, the Bruins accounted for the next three goals to take their biggest lead of the game, 9-3, with 1:40 left in regulation. Saber tacked on UCSD's final goal with under a minute left to bring the Tritons back within five before the final whistle.
Prior to first sprint, four UCSD seniors- William Brown, Matt Kerchner, Saber and Morton- were honored for their years of service to the Triton water polo program. Morton will leave La Jolla as UCSD's all-time career saves leader. He has stopped 1,021 shots throughout his career.
The Tritons will have their last regular season contest of the season on Wednesday at No. 6 UC Irvine. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.
"We'll use the Irvine game as a preparation game to help us catapult into the WWPA (Championships)," said Harper.
Sunday won't be the last time UCSD plays in Canyonview Pool this season. The 2011 Western Water Polo Association Championships will take place on campus November 17-20. It is likely UCSD will be the No. 2 seed for the tournament. For more information, click here.