SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 13th-ranked UC San Diego women’s water polo team used a strong first half to earn a 10-8 win over Loyola Marymount Sunday in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championship title game, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships in the process.
"From the outset, we wanted to build for the long term and for that reason have focused on recruiting players from winning programs who bring winning attitudes," said UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. "Our players know how to win and the fact that we've been able to get to the conference championship game four straight years bears that out."
It is the third WWPA title for UCSD, which last won it in 2011 by defeating LMU, 13-11. The Tritons first title was back in 2000 in an 11-8 victory over the Lions.
"It was really an overall effort," said Kreutzkamp. " Defense has been our priority all year and we knew that against a solid team like LMU, we were going to have to be on our toes defensively. It all starts with Courtney (Miller) in the cage. Allison (Delgado) and Alexis (Wieseler) did a fantastic job at two-meters and everyone played their roles to perfection."
Tied 2-2 in the opening half, the Tritons began to make their run with three goals by tournament MVP Melissa Bartow, which led UCSD to an 8-5 advantage at the break.
"Mel (Bartow) is such a hard worker, gives us great leadership and her dedication is infectious," said Kreutzkamp.
Bartow was joined by Sarah Lizotte and Courtney Miller on All-Tournament First Team, while Jolene Guiliana, who scored three times Sunday, earned second team recognition.
"I always envisioned us winning this championship, but never saw myself as an MVP," said Bartow. "Even now, I know it was a total team effort. On any given day, it could be any one of us scoring the goals and getting the recognition. Our team is just so well-rounded. Today just happened to be my turn."
UCSD gained its largest lead of the game mid-way through the second, as both Bartow and Lizotte netted back-to-back goals, giving the Tritons a four-goal lead at 7-3.
The second half tempo switched to a defensive focus as both the Tritons and Lions each scored just one goal in the third quarter.
UCSD’s 10th and final goal of the game came at the 5:13 mark of the fourth as Bartow netted her fifth off a 6-on-5 opportunity. LMU answered with two, but was unable to connect on key possessions through the final two minute stretch.
"This time, it wasn't about fighting against another team to win, but proving that we were the best team in the conference," said Lizotte. "There were expectations coming in and we lived up to them. It was definitely different than two years ago, not necessarily better, but it was a younger group, a different set of players and different roles. Frankly, it's super exciting--not only knowing that we're going to the NCAA Championships, but knowing that everyone is returning and thinking about coming back here next year to defend our title."
Miller finished with 10 saves in the game. Alexis Wieseler also scored for the Tritons.
Alexandra Honny scored four goals for LMU, while Jessica Morelos added a pair. Claire Wright equaled Miller with 10 stops in net.
Loyola Marymount has won the WWPA title nine times since 2001 and has appeared in the final game every season. The Lions have topped the Tritons in the championship game on five occasions, most recently in 2012. Along with UCSD, UC Davis has won the crown twice since 2001.
The 2013 NCAA Championships will be hosted by Harvard, May 10-12 at Blodgett Pool in Boston. The tournament field will be selected on Monday, April 28 at 5 p.m. PT. To view the selection show live, click here.
For complete NCAA Tournament information, including schedule and ticket pricing, visit the Tournament Central Page here.
UCSD 3 – 5 – 1 – 1 = 10
LMU 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 = 8
UCSD Goals: Melissa Bartow 5, Jolene Guiliana 3, Sarah Lizotte, Alexis Wieseler
LMU Goals: Alexandra Honny 4, Jessica Morelos 2, Ivana Castro, Mackenzie Beck
UCSD Saves: Courtney Miller 10
LMU Saves: Claire Wright 10
-- UCSDtritons.com --