DAVIS, Calif. – No. 10 UC San Diego opened the 2013 Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championship with a 8-4 semifinal win over No. 14 Santa Clara at Schaal Aquatics Complex on the campus of UC Davis Saturday. Cameron Ravanbach (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) tied a UCSD school-record and delivered a career-high 21 saves in a strong defensive effort from the Tritons, while David Higginson (San Diego/The Bishop's School) and Tommy Friedrich (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS) scored three goals apiece in the win.
UCSD moves into the WWPA title game for the third consecutive season tomorrow at 2 p.m. and improves to 13-13 overall on the year. The Tritons will face No. 11 UC Davis in the finals, who took care of No. 15 Loyola Marymount 9-7 in the other semifinal matchup.
Santa Clara drops to 16-15 overall following the loss and will face LMU in the third-place game tomorrow at 12:15 p.m.
“It was definitely a complete game for us, especially at the defensive end,” said head coach Denny Harper. “I thought our defensive was exceptional, especially Cameron in the cage with his 21 saves, just a phenomenal effort.”
The Tritons jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead following two Friedrich goals and a score from Higginson. The Broncos responded with a goal before UCSD’s Tician Toplak drew an ejection to create a man advantage. The Tritons capitalized on the 6-on-5 man-up with an outside shot into the back of the cage from Joe Dietrich to jump ahead 4-1 at the end of the first period.
UCSD and SCU exchanged goals in the second period to head into intermission with the Tritons up 5-2. Dietrich scored the lone goal for UCSD in the quarter.
The Triton defense, an emphasis of the game-plan after allowing six first half goals in the previous meeting, thwarted the Bronco offense in the first half and held SCU to two goals on 16 shot attempts at halftime.
“I would give the execution of our game-plan about a nine out of 10,” said Harper. “We had a couple small breakdowns, but overall the defensive plan to protect against the post-up and the Bronco offense, I think we did a really good job.”
Santa Clara cut the deficit to a pair following a man-up score, but Higginson extended the Triton lead back to three with a shot from the outside to take UCSD into the final period up 6-3.
The Tritons opened the final quarter with a goal from Higginson at two meters, assisted by a nice pass from Chase Cockerill to extend the lead to 7-3 with 6:14 remaining. Friedrich followed with his third goal of the afternoon to make the score 8-3 before a final Bronco goal made the final 8-4 in favor of UCSD.
On the afternoon, the Triton defense held SCU to 4-32 shooting and allowed only one goal on seven power play attempts. Ravanbach was the biggest reason behind the defensive success, who tied David Morton’s record of 21 saves set in an 11-7 win over Concordia on Oct. 2, 2010.
On offense, Dietrich tallied a pair of scores to complement the two hat-tricks from Higginson and Freidrich.
Santa Clara received one score each from Jimmy Moore, Patrick Weiss, Garrat Johnson and Graham McClone, while goalkeeper Matt Pritchett tallied nine blocks in the loss, respectively.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's meeting, UCSD has fallen victim to UC Davis twice this season. The Aggies earned a win at the SoCal Tournament on Oct. 12 and grabbed another win in WWPA action in La Jolla on Nov. 2, a sudden-victory win for UCD.
“We are going to have to play exceptional counter-attack defense tomorrow, and that starts with a well-executed frontcourt offense” said Harper on the championship matchup. “If we can minimize the turnovers and everybody is conscious of getting back, we can be successful. I’m sure it’s going to be a great game, just look at the two games earlier this year. It’s going to be a crazy battle of a final.”
The winner of the WWPA championship earns the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Championship, hosted by Stanford on Dec. 7-8.
UCSD 4 1 1 2 - 8
SCU 1 1 1 1 - 4