No. 10 Air Force Finishes Fourth at NCAA Championship
Dec. 2, 2012
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Converting on just two of 12 extra-man opportunities, the 10th-ranked Air Force water polo team fell to No. 11 St. Francis Brooklyn, 14-8, Sunday afternoon in the third-place game of the 2012 National Collegiate Water Polo Tournament, being held at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
St. Francis, seeded third in the tournament, started out strong, gaining a 5-1 lead after one period. The only Air Force score in the first quarter came from junior Josh Stedman (Brea, Calif.), who tallied a penalty goal to put the Falcons on the board. Air Force's deficit grew to 6-1 after a St. Francis goal two minutes into the second period before Cruz Smithson (Sr., Capistrano Beach, Calif.) found the back of the net at the 4:35 mark.
After a missed penalty opportunity by the Falcons, St. Francis increased its lead to 7-2 with a penalty shot at the other end and tacked on another goal with less than two minutes remaining in the period. However, Air Force scored the final goal of the quarter with a tally from senior captain Brad Rajchel (Orlando, Fla.), bringing the halftime score to 8-3.
The Terriers continued to pull away in the third period, outscoring the Falcons 3-0. St. Francis added another score to open the final stanza, pushing its advantage to 12-3 before Air Force received back-to-back goals from Ben Rogers (Fr., Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Rajchel with under four minutes to play.
Following another St. Francis goal, Air Force tacked on three more scores in the final minute and a half, getting a pair of goals from Smithson and another from Dillon Fisher (Sr., Orange, Calif.). Meanwhile, the Terriers scored with four seconds on the clock to account for the final 14-8 margin.
"Obviously it didn't turn out the way that we were hoping for it to turn out," said Air Force head coach Jeff Heidmous. "We were hoping for a more competitive game. In a lot of ways, things went the way we wanted it to--posting up people, getting goals or ejections out of it and we had quite a few man ups, but it just wasn't enough. Their man-up defense was better than our man-up offense today. That was really it. Then we had a hard time making shots and I thought the guys were really pressing, trying to get things and they really weren't patient, with shots going wide of the cage. Their goalkeeper had a great game and filled the cage."
At the conclusion of the championship, Smithson and Stedman were both named second-team all-tournament selections. Meanwhile, the Falcons, who posted their best-ever NCAA finish, end the 2012 season with a 19-12 overall record.
No. 11 St. Francis 14, No. 10 Air Force 8