Nov. 17, 2012
WHITTIER, Calif. - Senior captain Brad Rajchel (Orlando, Fla.) tallied four goals, including the game-winner, as the 13th-ranked Air Force water polo team knocked off No. 11 Loyola Marymount in the semi-finals of the 2012 Western Water Polo Association Championship.
The Lions scored the first two goals of the contest and led 3-1 midway through the first period, before the Falcons tallied three straight scores to take the lead. Meanwhile, LMU closed out the quarter with a score in the final minute to tie the game at 4-4.
Air Force pushed its advantage to two goals in the second quarter before the Lions tallied its only goal of the period with 15 seconds on the clock. After LMU tied the score once more with a goal to begin the third quarter, Air Force answered with tallies from Josh Stedman (Jr., Brea, Calif.) and Rajchel to regain its two-goal advantage. However, the Lions were able to tie the score at 8-8 going into the final stanza.
The Falcons regained their lead with a goal from junior Andrew Hamilton (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) in the fourth quarter, but a score from LMU's Milotin Mitrovic midway through the period tied the score at 9-9. Rajchel tallied his fourth score of the game with 3:31 remaining and it proved to be the gamewinner, as the Falcons held off the second-seeded Lions.
While Rajchel led Air Force's offense with four goals, senior goalkeeper Mike Fish (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) recorded 13 saves to anchor the Falcons' defense. Air Force converted on four of its six 6-on-5 chances, while also scoring on its lone penalty attempt. Meanwhile, the Lions were just 2-of-11 on their extra-man opportunities.
With their win, the Falcons, seeded third in this year's tournament, will face top-seed UC San Diego in the championship game tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. (PT). Air Force (18-10), which snapped an 18-game losing streak versus Loyola Marymount, is now guaranteed at least a second-place finish in the Western Water Polo Association, its best showing since 1999.
No. 13 Air Force 10, No. 11 Loyola Marymount 9
Air Force - 4 2 2 2 - 10
LMU - 4 1 3 1 - 9
AF Scoring: Rajchel 4, Stedman 2, Jackovich, J. Johnson, Rogers, Hamilton
LMU Scoring: Coldren 3, Mitrovic 2, Stipanovich 2, Walters, Menis