LA JOLLA, Calif. – With the return of an entire team that reached the National Collegiate Women’s Water Polo Championship in 2013, head coach Brad Kreutzkamp and the 2014 UC San Diego water polo team had one goal in mind this season – reach the NCAA Championship for the second straight season and third time in school history.
That goal was accomplished Saturday with a victory over Pomona-Pitzer, 13-9, in the National Collegiate Championship play-in game at Canyonview Aquatic Center.
The Tritons will head to the eight-team field in Los Angeles at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on May 9-11. UCSD is slated to face No. 2 UCLA on Friday at noon. The two teams met earlier this season on Feb. 22, a game in which the Bruins prevailed, 8-6.
The win improves UCSD to 27-10 overall, which marks the highest win total in program history to surpass last season’s mark of 26 victories in the NCAA era (since 2001). The Tritons have now won 10 straight games heading into the championship.
Sarah Lizotte, who will be making her third NCAA Championship appearance, led the charge offensively with four goals. Alexis Wieseler and Julia Kirkland added a hat trick apiece in the victory for UCSD.
The Tritons led from start-to-finish, despite a late push from the Sagehens in the final quarter.
UCSD opened the game with goals from Lizotte and Wieseler, but Pomona-Pitzer seemed to have an answer for every Triton score in the first half. Each team poured in five second-period goals to make the score 7-6 UCSD at the intermission.
As the game entered the final quarter, the Sagehens cut the Triton lead to one, 9-8, with 7:33 to play in regulation. Julia Kirkland answered for the Tritons, however, and found the back of the cage at the 7:20 mark to push the lead back to a pair, 10-8. Emma Sasson extended the lead a minute later with a bar-in goal with 6:25 to play.
After a Sagehen goal, the Tritons clinched their trip to Los Angeles with goals from Lauren Boyer and Kirkland to make the final 13-9.
UCSD will be making its third trip to the NCAA Championship in four years following the victory. The highest finish came in 2013 with a sixth-place effort.
The 2014 championship will be an eight-team, single-elimination tournament (12 games), with a loser's bracket to determine places three through eight.
UCSD 2 5 2 4 - 13
PP 1 5 1 2 - 9
UCSD: Sarah Lizotte 4, Alexis Wieseler 3, Julia Kirkland 3, Leah Gonzales 1, Emma Sasson 1, Lauren Boyer 1
PP: Alyssa Woodward 2, Christina Williamson 2, Vicky Gyorffy 2, Sarah Westcott 1, Hope Grant 1, Mahalia Prater-Fahey 1
UCSD: Courtney Miller 5
PP: Ahsha Earwood 7