LA JOLLA, Calif. -
The UC San Diego women's water polo team will have to wait another year to end No. 9-ranked San Diego State's Harper Cup supremacy as the Aztecs defeated the Tritons, 10-5, in the 11th Annual Harper Cup, held at Canyonview Aquatic Center on Friday.
The Tritons conclude the regular season with a record-setting 19-13 overall record. They return to Canyonview next Friday to begin the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championships and will face Sonoma State in the opening round at 4:30 p.m.
The Aztecs (21-9) will play a yet-to-be-determined No. 2 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships as the No. 7 seed next Friday in Palo Alto, Calif. SDSU improves its record to 11-0 against UCSD in the Harper Cup while improving its winning streak over the Tritons to 17.
Despite the loss, Sarah Lizotte scored a game-high four goals to tie Julie Swail's 1995 regular-season record for goals scored with 84. In addition, Lizotte was named co-MVP along with SDSU's Amber Pezzolla, who scored three goals for the Aztecs' win. This marked the first time co-MVPs have been named for the Harper Cup and the first instance in which a Triton has earned the honor.
"We had talked all week long that if we play up to our potential, come out with some excitement, we can hang with any team in the country," said Tritons head coach Brad Kreutzkamp. "The Aztecs are an amazing team and if we're hanging with them, 1-0, 2-1, then hey, we're ready for our conference championships next week."
Down 6-2 at the half, the Tritons showed the Aztecs they were determined to end SDSU's scoring run. Lizotte scored her second goal of the day with 3:17 left in the third quarter to trim the Tritons' deficit, 6-3.
With 51 seconds remaining in the third, Lizotte earned her hat trick when she skipped a shot off the water surface and into the back of the net to bring the Tritons within two, 6-4.
Following an extra-man goal by SDSU's Alana Burgess with 6:30 left in the game to make the score, 7-4, Lizotte scored her fourth goal with 6:15 remaining to keep UCSD within two and claim a share of the Tritons' regular-season goals-scored record.
But Emily Whalen scored the Aztecs' eighth goal (4:48 left) and Pezzolla scored the ninth, giving both Pezzolla a hat trick for the game and SDSU a 9-5 lead at the 2:53 mark. Anique Hermann assisted both goals. Alex Ford scored the Aztecs' 10th and final goal with two seconds left in the game.
After a couple shots-on-goal from both teams to begin the game, Lizotte shot the ball under goalkeeper Kelly Campoli's left arm at the 3:40 mark in the first to end the scoreless tie and get the Tritons on the board, 1-0. Twelve seconds later on the next possession, Leanne Ford evened the score at one apiece.
The Tritons regained the lead, 2-1, when Jessica Tran, who was planted on the right side and fending off a defender, lobbed the ball off the left upright and into the net with 5:50 remaining in the half. Deja vu occurred for the Aztecs when Pezzolla tied the score on the next possession at the 5:40 mark in the second quarter.
With the second goal, the Aztecs commenced a 5-0 run that extended into the second half. In addition, the first half became the Amber Pezzolla show. Pezzolla scored the Aztecs' go-ahead goal with 5:12 remaining in the half and assisted on the other four first-half SDSU goals.
Meaghan Poland scored the fourth and fifth goals at the 4:39 and 2:32 marks, respectively, and Ford capped off the Aztecs' scoring run with a goal 42 seconds before the halftime buzzer.
Looking into the conference tournament next week, Kreutzkamp said the Tritons have only one team on their mind.
"It's going to sound cliché but we play Sonoma first, and that's all we're thinking about," Kreutzkamp said. "There's been too many mix-ups in the past for us not being ready for that first opponent, and we've already played Sonoma this year so we have game tape on them, and we'll practice all week for Sonoma. All week."
Prior to Friday's game, UCSD seniors Kirsten Bates, Katherine Biehle, Natalie Peng, Allie Taylor and Jessica Tran were all honored for their contributions to the women's water polo team.