Fourth-year UC San Diego women’s water polo coach Brad Kreutzkamp
was looking for answers after Friday night’s, 13-6, first round NCAA Championship loss to No. 6 and fourth-seeded Hawai'i at Blodgett Pool. From his perspective, they were pretty clear cut.
“They beat us in every aspect and it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did,”
said Kreutzkamp, whose 12th-ranked WWPA title winners fall to 25-14 on the season. “That wasn’t fun.”
The Big West Conference champion Rainbow Wahine took an early lead and UCSD was never able to catch up. Sophomore Zoe Respondek, who had scored just 11 goals all season, netted two in the first 5:06 of this one. Goal No. 1 came just seconds after the fifth-seeded Tritons had killed off a UH man-up opportunity.
Twenty-three seconds after Respondek put Hawai'i up, 2-0, UCSD countered. Junior Leah Gonzales dropped an entry pass into WWPA Tournament MVP Melissa Bartow who whipped a backhand shot past goalie Amy Carlson to cut the lead in half. That’s how the first quarter ended, 2-1.
UH struck early in the second quarter with Amarens Genee putting a backhander off the arm of UCSD goalie Courtney Miller and Caity Lopes da Silva canning the first of her four scores at the end of a counterattack.
With 3:24 remaining in the second session, junior Sarah Lizotte, the WWPA’s Player of the Year, made it 4-2 with a cross-cage strike from long range. Hawai'i pushed the lead back to three when Genee got inside water and one-timed a bullet past Miller. Then it fell apart for the Tritons.
They failed to score in a man-up situation with just over a minute left in the half and UH’s Paula Chillida Esforzado got loose on the subsequent counterattack. A breakaway-saving foul by freshman Alexis Wieseler resulted in a five-meter penalty shot which leading scorer Monika Eggens deposited for her 94th goal of the season. Twenty-three seconds later, the Rainbow Wahine tallied on another counter and what had appeared a manageable halftime deficit ballooned to 7-2.
After outscoring UCSD, 5-1, the second period, Hawai'i did the same in the third and put the outcome well out of reach at 13-3 early in the final quarter.
Wieseler finished with two goals, both in the fourth quarter (one on a penalty shot), to lead the Tritons. Gonzales and freshman Julia Kirkland accounted for the other UC San Diego goals and Miller stopped 11 shots in the cage.
Kreutzkamp lamented his squad’s missed chances. “The 6-on-5 disparity was huge, particularly because we didn’t convert early,” he said after watching UCSD go just 1-for-6 while Hawai'i was 5-for-7 in extra player scenarios. “We could have very easily been up 2-1 or 3-1 in the first quarter and we never really recovered from that. They exploited our inability to convert those opportunities.”
UCSD now moves into the consolation bracket of the eight-team tournament, being hosted at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. There it will face SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer (18-17) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PT. The Sagehens were routed, 27-1, by top-seeded USC earlier in the day. Depending on tomorrow’s result, the Tritons will square off against either Princeton or Iona Sunday. Hawai'i improved to 22-9. All games of the 2013 NCAA Championship can be watched live, free of charge, through NCAA.com.
NCAA NOTES & QUOTES
· This is just the second time the UCSD women have been to the NCAA Championship, the first in 2011 at Ann Arbor, Mich. Four players from that roster (Lizotte, Bartow, Gonzales and Allison Delgado) are in Boston this year.
· Juniors Sarah Lizotte and Leah Gonzales both talked about what went wrong but also the opportunity tomorrow’s game presents...
“It wasn’t one thing. Hawai'i has a very good team and we knew we would have to execute because any mistake you make, they capitalize. We needed to play mistake free, we didn’t and it cost us.
“We’ve only gotten rolled like this once all year-against Stanford. When that happened, we turned it around the next game. We’ve got a team with a lot of fight that’s very resilient and I expect we’ll see that same kind of performance tomorrow. Our four upper classmen will set the tone.”
“Hawai'i was very physical and it was tough for us to match that. We’re very young and I think that showed itself tonight.
“We talked about things to expect but we didn’t expect me to miss a penalty shot or to do as poorly as we did in 6-on-5 situations. Those things could have changed the game. I think some of that was a testament to our age.
“We’ll definitely be excited about tomorrow. I know we will come out hard. It’s a new day and we’ve got to let this one go. It’s still a huge honor for us to be here and we need to show everyone what kind of team we are capable of being.”
-- UCSDtritons.com --