LA JOLLA, Calif. - The UC San Diego men's water polo team jumped out to an early lead and then withstood Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' comeback attempt in the third quarter, as the Tritons prevailed 12-8 in Western Water Polo Association Championship play on Friday evening at Canyonview Pool.
Second-seeded UCSD (15-9) advances to face No. 3 Santa Clara (18-16) on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. with a trip to the Sunday's title game on the line. No. 7 Claremont (16-12) will play No. 6 Pomona-Pitzer (14-19) in the consolation semifinals at 6:00 p.m.
Graham Saber paced the Tritons with four goals on the evening while John Butler and Josh Stiling recorded two goals apiece. David Morton had eight saves in net for the Tritons. CMS's Vincent Schiavoni and John Holland scored twice for the Stags.
Saber and Butler opened the scoring for the Tritons as UCSD took a 2-0 lead. CMS answered at the 4:09 mark but Stiling used a quick shot off a restart to keep the lead at two with 90 seconds remaining in the first. After David Morton made a point-blank save on a shot by Brian Chong with 20 seconds to play, he tossed an outlet pass to the middle of the tank to David Higginson.
Higginson lobbed the ball over the Stag defense to Danny Lorch at the far post. Lorch touched the offering past the keeper to make it 4-1 as time expired in the opening frame.
UCSD expanded its lead to 6-2 at the break as Lukas Syka got into the scoring action with a goal off a skip-shot from four meters out.
The momentum would not transfer to the second half, however. CMS scored four of the first five goals of the third quarter to make it 7-6 at the 2:17 mark. Brian Donohoe eventually stopped the bleeding for the Tritons the next time down the pool and the teams traded goals in the final minute to make it 9-7 UCSD heading into the final stanza.
"We definitely lost our focus, I'm not sure what happened. I don't think we felt like we were ever going to lose the game," said UCSD head coach Denny Harper. "To Claremont's credit, they played really well and you can see why that number six (Brian Chong) should be a first team all-conference player."
UCSD opened the fourth with a pair of goals from Saber and a long lob-shot for a score by Butler to take a 12-7 lead. Chong tacked one on with 2:30 minutes left to make the Stags' final deficit four.
No. 1 Loyola Marymount and No. 4 UC Davis will play in the other semifinal contest.
Santa Clara took a one-goal lead into the final quarter in its match up with Pomona-Pitzer, but outscored the Sagehens 4-1 in the final stanza to take a 10-6 win. Daley Meistrell led the Broncos with three goals while Marcus Akerland and Kyle Surber each contributed a pair of goals. Michael Wishart tallied five saves in goal.
UCSD topped Santa Clara 14-7 in the only contest between the teams this season on November 4 at Canyonview.