BOSTON - Rebounding from a disappointing first-round loss, the 12th-ranked UC San Diego women’s water polo team got five goals from junior Sarah Lizotte and cruised past SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer, 15-8, in an NCAA Championship consolation-bracket contest on Saturday afternoon.
The victory pits the Tritons (26-14) against No. 10 Princeton (27-6) for fifth place in Sunday’s tournament finale at 10:45 a.m. PT. All games in the eight-team championship are being hosted by Harvard University at Blodgett Pool.
“It was good to get a victory after how we played last night against Hawai'i,” said Coach Brad Kreutzkamp, alluding to the Tritons’ 13-6 defeat. “When we were able to get out to an early lead, it made me feel a lot better and I could see we had our typical confidence.”
Lizotte made sure there would be no repeat of Friday’s outcome, scoring all five of her goals in the first half, staking UCSD to a 10-5 lead at the break. Junior two-meter player Melissa Bartow and sophomore Rachel Brooks cashed in three times apiece and the trio of Lizotte, Bartow and Brooks accounted for all of the Tritons’ first-half scoring. Bartow had plenty of praise for Lizotte’s play.
“Sarah is an amazing player and everyone on our team knows we can count on her,” said Bartow. “As our top scorer, she’s under a lot of pressure, but she’s used to that and able to handle it. She’s been through it enough times and always helps hold us together when things get tough.”
As per plan, Kreutzkamp made ample use of his bench throughout and it was primarily reserves that allowed UCSD to extend its advantage in the final two quarters.
“Against any team, we want to get our bench involved and get the other team horizontal which helps us,” said the fourth-year head man. “I love how deep our bench is and in a tournament situation, like this, you’re always thinking about what’s still to come. We want to be as fresh as possible.”
Aside from Brooks’ final goal, all of the second half goal-scoring was done by freshmen, Alexis Wieseler notching a pair with Julia Kirkland and Emma Sasson registering one each. Another freshman, goalie Courtney Miller stopped six shots in the cage.
The win was UCSD’s 10th in as many tries against Pomona-Pitzer and the loss dropped the Sagehens to 18-18 on the year. Already assured of its best-ever NCAA Championship finish (UCSD defeated Iona for seventh in 2011), the Tritons match up against a Princeton team that throttled Iona, 12-2, in today’s first game after dropping a closer-than-expected, 8-6, decision to No. 3 UCLA in Friday’s first round. Kreutzkamp made no attempt to hide the significance of tomorrow’s contest.
“Princeton is a very good team and the two of us have been close in the polls all along,” said the 2013 WWPA Coach of the Year. “We’ve had a fantastic season but a win tomorrow ends it on a bright note. That means everything. I expect us to play our best game of the year,”
· After putting up less-than-stellar man-up numbers against Hawai'i on Friday, UCSD had an edge on Pomona-Pitzer today, converting 4-of-8 while holding the Sagehens to 2-of-6.
· UCSD is 3-7 all-time vs. Princeton, and the most recent clash between the two came at last year’s Aztec Invitational, where the Tigers slipped by the Tritons, 7-6, in overtime.
· The UC San Diego men’s water polo team faced Princeton in the third-place game at the 2011 NCAA Championship in Berkeley and was upset, 9-7.
· Although this year’s finish will be the Tritons’ best in NCAA Championship competition, UCSD did win five USA Water Polo titles, the precursor to the NCAA sponsoring the sport. Current UCSD men’s coach Denny Harper was at the helm for those victories.
· A profile on UC San Diego’s freshman goalie Courtney Miller is scheduled to run tonight at NCAA.com.
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