WHITTIER, Calif. - The 10th-ranked UC San Diego men's water polo team kicked off the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championship Tournament Friday morning with a convincing 13-6 victory over host Whittier in first round action.
The win earned top-seeded UCSD a spot in Saturday's semifinals, where it will take on No. 16 UC Davis.
Early communication on the defensive front got UCSD started, but it did not take long for the offense to follow as the Tritons outscored the Poets in each of the first three periods.
"This is true to form," said UCSD head coach Denny Harper. "It's obviously not our first WWPA Championship, and this was a classic first round game. I thought there were a few jitters on our part. It's never easy to play a host school for a first round game."
Triton control began with the opening sprint, won by David Higginson, and continued as Brian Donohoe drew an ejection on Whittier just 16 seconds into the game. UCSD's first goal came a minute later with an outside shot by WWPA Player of the Year Josh Stiling. Freshman Chase Cockerill was able to conserve water and earn a fast break goal just past the six minute mark to give the Tritons a 3-1 lead to end the first quarter.
UCSD's offense really began to connect in the second quarter, with recognition of early speed and ball control that revealed gaps in the Whittier defense. The Tritons were able to sub often and stay fresh, keeping the quickness they needed to out-play their opponent.
"I like the super six, as we call them," said Harper. "That second group I thought played well and actually created a little more distance between us and Whittier and quite honestly jump started the whole thing."
Four of UCSD's five second quarter goals came late in the given shot clock after finding Whittier players out of position.
The Tritons tacked on another five goals in the second half, three in the third quarter and two in the fourth.
UCSD goalkeepers Cameron Ravanbach and Nick Michels held Whittier to three goals in each half with split action. Ravanbach finished with 12 saves in three quarters of play while Michels tallied three in the fourth quarter.
Michael Eachus led the Poets offensively with a pair of goals. Ryan Rock made five saves in net.
Saturday's semifinal between UCSD (15-7) and fourth-seeded UC Davis (14-16) gets underway at 12:30 p.m. The Aggies edged Santa Clara, 6-5, Friday to advance to the semis.
Saturday's game will be broadcast live online here.
"Semifinals in the WWPA are pretty brutal," said Harper. "It will definitely be a challenging game. Everyone's going to be playing really hard tomorrow."
UCSD has defeated UCD twice already this season.
For a complete list of tournament matches and results, visit the tournament homepage.
UCSD 3 - 5 - 3 - 2 = 13
WHITTIER 1 - 2 - 1 - 2 = 6
UCSD Goals: John Butler 3, Josh Stiling 3, Chris Barton 2, Lance Curtiss, Matt Michalko, Luke Syka, Brian Roach, Chase Cockerill.
WC Goals: Michael Eachus 2, Douglas Marriott, Cameron Rehm, Justin Pratt, Christian Sook.
-- UCSDtritons.com --