After dropping its first two matches of the Invitational on Saturday to No. 16 UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Bakersfield, the Tritons defeated the Broncos 10-8 before downing the Red Foxes 8-4. UCSD improves to 6-3 overall and 2-1 against Western Water Polo Association teams on the season.
"I would be lying if I said it was a great weekend. It wasn't," said UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. "We had better hopes to try and stay with a (UC) Santa Barbara team which we fell a little short of, then we came back flat against (Cal State) Bakersfield. But I have to stay satisfied that we got two wins, we have our attitudes back on track, and now we get people happy and who want to play."
UCSD and SCU swam laps in the opening quarter of the morning game, as neither was able to find the net. Melissa Bartow forced her first ejection of the game at the 4:28 mark, but Kirsten Bates found the crossbar on the ensuing shot attempt. A minute and a half later, Jessica Tran attempted a floater, but the SCU keeper was able to get a hand to it.
SCU's Marina Allen broke the seal a minute into the second quarter to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead. UCSD tied it the next trip down the pool as Tran found Natalie Peng inside for a quick-shot and the score.
Tied 2-2, the game encountered a strange scenario as UCSD goalkeeper Allie Taylor was ejected for going over the back of Allen. The Tritons were unable to substitute for Taylor, so Katherine Biehle, Bates and Sarah Lizotte played deep in front of the cage on the SCU 6-on-5. Despite Lizotte getting a hand to Allen's shot, the ball trickled over the line to give SCU a 3-2 edge.
Biehle tied it up from close range with 3:00 minutes left. UCSD killed a 6-on-5 before gaining another man-advantage when Bartow drew her third ejection of the half. On the restart, Bates ricocheted another shot off the crossbar, but Tran swam onto it to keep possession. She flipped it out to Lizotte, who sent it right back to Tran on the right side. Tran threw a pump-fake to the far post before firing the shot inside the front post for the Tritons first lead of the game, 4-3, with 1:41 left in the half.
The Lizotte-Tran connection hooked up again in the third, as Lizotte assisted on another Tran goal on the right side to hand the Tritons a two-goal lead. Allen responded for SCU to make it 5-4, but Leah Gonzales flicked a shot off the crossbar and in to keep the Triton lead at two with 4:16 left.
Up 7-6 with 5:27 remaining, the Tritons defense dug-in. Taylor made a fingertip save on Allen's attempt at a lob shot and Tran blocked an outside shots by Laura Espinosa on consecutive possessions. Allison Delgado scored arguably the biggest goal of the game from outside the left flank, lobbing in a shot over the goalie's hand and into the side-netting to make it 8-6 with 4:19 left.
SCU pulled back within one and had a legitimate opportunity to tie the game up when Bates was ejected off the ball while fighting for position in front of her own cage. The Broncos called timeout and pinged the ball around the outside of the offensive set before Allen skimmed another shot off the crossbar.
UCSD penalized SCU for not taking advantage of its chance, as Bates found Bartow slashing to the net on the Tritons' next possession. Bartow collected the ball, turned to her left and rocketed a shot off the goalie and in for UCSD's final score. Taylor made a point-blank save on Laura Burtness' opportunity to preserve the 9-7 victory.
"Going 0-and-2 on the first day really set us back, but I'm proud of how we responded on the second day," said Kreutzkamp. "We easily could have cashed it in today and lost to two pretty good teams but we didn't."
UCSD met Marist for the second time in three days and for the third time this season in the 13th place game. Lizotte led the way with five goals in the contest while Tran, Bartow and Bates each pitched-in with a score in the four-goal victory.
Tran and Bates handed the Tritons a 2-0 lead in the first, but Mackenzie Maynes and Alison Hamby matched it to tie it 2-2 by the end of the first quarter. Lizotte scored two goals in the first 73 seconds of the second quarter to put the Tritons back up by two before Bartow finished off Hannah Guthman's pass to make the Tritons' lead three at the break.
The Red Foxes held the Tritons scoreless in the third quarter as fatigue began to set in for both teams. Kelly Kline scored the lone goal as UCSD managed a 5-3 edge heading into the final stanza.
Lizotte registered a hat trick in the fourth to put the game out of reach, scoring immediately off the final sprint before ripping the net from four meters out at the 5:48 mark. She put the Tritons up by five with her final goal with 1:41 remaining, going cross-cage off Tran's pass across the tank. Marist added a goal with less than 90 seconds remaining.
UCSD is 3-0 against Marist this season after beating the Red Foxes on January 29 at the Terrapin Invitational and then again on February 10 at Canyonview Pool.
The Tritons next game is at Long Beach State on Saturday, February 18 at noon.
Arizona State (12-0) topped UC Irvine (9-2) to take home the Triton Invitational title.
1. Arizona State
2. UC Irvine
3. San Diego State
4. Loyola Marymount
7. UC Santa Barbara
8. Cal State Northridge
10. Cal State Bakersfield
11. Long Beach State
12. Cal State East Bay
13. UC San Diego
15. Sonoma State
16. Santa Clara