COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Matthew Michalko
recorded a hat trick as the No. 10 UC San Diego men's water polo team topped No. 20 Air Force 13-6 on Friday night in Western Water Polo Association play at Cadet Gym.
UCSD improves to 8-2 overall and 6-2 in WWPA play. Air Force drops to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play.
The easy win served as a bounce-back game for the Tritons after they dropped a 12-10 match to Loyola Marymount on Thursday night at Canyonview Pool. LMU overpowered UCSD in that contest and the Tritons needed five goals in the fourth quarter to bring the final scoreline within two.
"Today was a good recovery from last night," said UCSD head coach Denny Harper. "We were prepared and the guys responded well."
UCSD and Air Force each scored three goals in the first quarter, but the Tritons would out-score the Falcons 10-2 over the second and third quarters. Harper used a "six-for-six" method to substitute his team and keep them fresh in the thin air of Colorado Springs, meaning Harper subbed all six players in the pool for six new players on the bench every time the opportunity presented itself. The Air Force Academy is at an altitude of 8,200 feet.
"I knew it was likely going in that we'd play six-for-six in this match since we played last night," said Harper. "Every opportunity we had, especially when we scored goals, it was next group in. The affect the altitude makes is crazy."
Brian Donohoe, John Butler and Graham Saber each scored a pair of goals to go with Michalko's hat trick. David Morton stopped seven shots in goal. David Higginson and Danny Lorch also scored for the Tritons.
UCSD will stay in Colorado on Saturday to catch the Air Force-Tennessee State football game.
"We're not going to spend a ton of money to get out to Colorado just for a night. I thought it'd be great for the guys to catch the game, especially since Air Force is playing such a high-quality team," said Harper, sarcastically.
When UCSD returns to La Jolla, the Tritons will be preparing for the So Cal Tournament at Cal State Long Beach next weekend. UCSD will face UC Santa Barbara at 9:50 a.m. on Saturday morning.