No. 11 UCSD Reclaims Harper Cup With 6-5 Sudden-Death Victory Against No. 15 San Diego State on Senior Night
LA JOLLA, Calif. - Lauren Boyer rifled a hard back-handed shot to the lower left of the cage for the game-winning goal with 2:16 left in the second sudden-death overtime as the 11th-ranked UC San Diego women’s water polo team took back the Harper Cup against No. 15 San Diego State by a final score of 6-5 in a crosstown showdown Friday at the Canyonview Aquatic Center.
The decisive sequence began with a pass from Lani Tittle to the left diagonal for Laurel Kistler, who in turn found Boyer down low. With Tayla Walsh draped all over her back and without the ability to even glance at the target, the junior center flipped her right arm for an exquisite back-hand winner into the bottom left corner, sending a season-high crowd of 1,014 into euphoria to culminate a classic.
It was just the second time that UCSD lifted the Harper Cup, now 2-13 in the annual matchup after having previously won the 2014 edition, also in its home pool.
A tough, long-distance goal from senior attacker Emma Sasson had given the Tritons a 5-4 lead with 1:38 remaining in overtime. UCSD thought it had SDSU downed, but the Aztecs’ Walsh forced sudden death with 25 seconds left.
The Tritons got their six goals from six different players. Senior goalie Courtney Miller amassed 13 saves and was named the Harper Cup MVP. She also expertly plugged up an Aztec fast break early in the fourth. Walsh led SDSU with two scores. Aztec goalie Rachel Mitchell compiled 12 saves.
With a fifth consecutive win, UCSD concludes its regular season at 24-9 overall, including 6-3 in home contests. SDSU drops to 15-16.
The Tritons took the first goal of the game as Sasson found redshirt junior two-meter defender Alexis Wieseler for the score on a six-on-five situation. The Aztecs scored on a power play of their own 34 seconds later with a goal from Hannah Carrillo as the two teams deadlocked, 1-1, after the opening quarter.
SDSU outscored UCSD, 2-1, in the second period to take a one-goal lead at halftime. The Triton goal in the quarter came from Chanel Schilling.
The Tritons got two consecutive scores after the intermission from Julia Kirkland and fellow senior attacker Kistler, to grab a 4-3 advantage. With 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Nikole Ferrari found the back of the cage to even the score once more, 4-4. Neither team was able to get a goal in the fourth period, forcing overtime.
The Harper Cup is named for UCSD men’s water polo head coach Denny Harper, who played at SDSU and received his undergraduate degree from the school in 1978. He established the SDSU women’s water polo club team and went on to coach UCSD’s women’s team to five collegiate national championships from 1985-99.
Kirkland, Kistler, Miller, Sasson and Lauren Finwall were recognized before the opening sprint on Senior Night, as they appeared in their final regular-season home game.
UCSD will next play at the Western Water Polo Association Championship, hosted by Cal State East Bay at Chabot College, on Friday to Sunday, April 29-May 1. The top-seeded Tritons have a first-round bye and will start their conference title defense in a semifinal matchup against the winner of the first-round game between Mercyhurst and Cal State Monterey Bay on Saturday, April 30 at 12 p.m.
UCSD 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 1 - 6
SDSU 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 - 5
SDSU: Tayla Walsh 2, Hannah Carrillo, Caroline Israels, Nikole Ferrari
UCSD: Courtney Miller 13
SDSU: Rachel Mitchell 12