LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 18 UC San Diego women's water polo team jumped out to an early five-goal lead and survived a 17-minute scoreless drought to edge Brown, 7-6, in the Tritons' opening game of their mini-tournament on Friday evening at Canyonview Aquatic Center.
UCSD and Brown both stand at 13-11 overall on the season. The Tritons will face Azusa Pacific and Fresno Pacific at 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, respectively. Brown will clash with FPU at 10:00 a.m.
"We started off with one of the best quarters we've played this season in the first," said UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. "But, we need to learn how to close out games. When you score six goals in the first half and only one in the second, it makes it really difficult to win. We need to concentrate and really stay on task to be able to close out these games."
Katherine Biehle scored 30 seconds into the game and UCSD shot out to a 2-0 lead when Sarah Lizotte converted a penalty shot drawn by Jessica Tran with 5:22 left in the quarter. Brown's Kate Woods tapped-in a shot from close range to cut the deficit in half at the 4:31 mark, but the Bears would be held scoreless for nearly eight minutes.
After UCSD killed off Brown's first 6-on-5, Triton goalkeeper Allie Taylor launched a cross-tank pass to Leah Gonzales on a counter attack ahead of the pack. Gonzales collected the pass, pumped, and floated a shot to the back post to beat Brown keeper Evan Carston and make it 3-1. Allison Delgado scored with less than a minute left in the frame to put the Tritons up by three at the end of the quarter.
Kirsten Bates and Biehle scored within the first two minutes of the second quarter to put the Tritons up 6-1; however, it would be the last goal UCSD would muster until the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Bears' Emily McNamera, Sarah Present and Brittany Westerman tossed in unanswered goals to pull Brown within 6-4 at the break.
"Brown did a fantastic job at pressing our counter attack. They stopped our releases and really shut us down after we jumped on them with three counters in the first half. I give them credit there," said Kreutzkamp.
Neither team found the net during the third quarter as the squads combind for 0-for-9 shooting and five offensive fouls. Lizotte hit the bar and Woods' backhand nearly caught the back post, but neither squad caved to keep UCSD up by two heading into the final stanza.
"On the positive side, I thought our defense was great. We only gave up six goals all game and held them to three during that run. We're doing a good job defensively, but just kind of running out of gas offensively," said Kreutzkamp.
Bates snapped UCSD's 17 minute, 29 second-long scoreless streak on the Tritons' second man-advantage of the fourth. Five Tritons touched the ball in the offensive set before Bates beat Cranston to her left from four meters out to make it 7-4 at with 4:31 left to play.
The Bears answered on their next possession and nudged within 7-6 by taking advantage of back-to-back 6-on-5's with 1:44 to play. The Tritons worked the ball in deep to Melissa Bartow on their next trip down the pool, but Cranston came out of her cage to pick the ball off from the Triton center.
After a timeout with 1:15 left, the Bears worked the ball outside the perimeter, attempting to get the ball inside to Woods. However, Bates blocked Liz Rosen's pass inside and UCSD corralled the ball with 45 seconds remaining.
UCSD drained the shot clock out of a timeout as Bartow fired a shot with 18 ticks left from six meters. The ball deflected off Cranston's fingertips and out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Tritons with moments to spare. UCSD tossed the ball around the edge of the pool to run out the rest of the game.
"I love the competitive fire we're having, there's just no 'give up' in us. We may not focus on a lot of the turnovers that kill us in close games like this, but the fact that we're being tested in back-to-back six-on-fives and we have players playing defense out of position and not giving up, I felt that we really stepped up there," said Kreutzkamp.
In the other two games of the mini tournament, Brown downed Azusa Pacific 15-4 and Fresno Pacific topped APU 7-6.