UC San Diego Edges Loyola Marymount To Win 13th Western Water Polo Association Title, Advance To NCAA Championship
Nov. 24, 2002
Top-seeded UC San Diego held off Loyola Marymount in the title game of the 2002 Western Water Polo Association Championship at UCSD's Canyonview Pool Saturday evening, 5-4, to collect its 13th conference crown. In front of a packed house of 1,456, the Tritons (19-11) laid claim to the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship, earning their ninth trip.
Sophomore Kevin Smoker got the home side on the board early with a long-range shot two minutes in. After Lion junior Tamas Szego equalized, Triton senior co-captain Paul Motschall (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) and senior Kevin Witt traded scores to make the score 2-2 through one period. UCSD freshman Jesse Casellini would score the only goal of the second period before Triton senior Kellan Hori skipped a shot past 2001 WWPA MVP Kevin Paulsen 30 seconds into the second half to give UCSD the two-goal advantage. Ryan Chapatte of the Lions and Triton junior Matt Ellis notched goals over the next two minutes before Szego added his second of the game to slim the deficit to one for LMU heading into the final frame. The second-seeded defending conference champion Lions couldn't find the equalizer however, as the fourth quarter passed without further scoring. LMU (17-15) had one final opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime when a miscommunication on defense for the Tritons left Witt, LMU's leading scorer, open on the right wing, but Witt's shot hit the post to the right of senior goalie Lance Onken and sailed out of bounds, and Hori ran out the clock.
Saturday's Championship Game was a rematch of last year's title game. Loyola Marymount defeated UCSD, 4-2, at LMU's Burns Recreation and Aquatics Center in 2001 to earn its first-ever conference title and NCAA Championship berth. The teams had met twice this season prior to Saturday, with UCSD winning by the final score of 6-4 on the second day of the Triton Invitational in early September and 6-3, again at Canyonview, in mid-October.
"It was a hard-fought game, as we knew it would be, between two evenly-matched teams," said Triton head coach Denny Harper. "In the end, it's just all about the kids. I couldn't be more proud, or happier for my guys. We're moving on to the NCAA Championship, and we don't just want to wind up in the Third Place Game. We want to repeat what we did last time."
What the Tritons did last time, was shock USC, 9-8, in a National Semifinal in Malibu in 2000, and finish as National Runners-Up following an 11-2 loss to UCLA in the Final. UCSD will compete in this year's NCAA Championship at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, December 7-8. Following the title game, Harper was named WWPA Coach of the Year for the 14th time, while Witt, a repeat First Team selection, was awarded the MVP trophy. Onken and Triton sophomores Jonathan Hopkins (Coronado/Coronado HS) and Clark Petersen (San Diego/University City HS) joined Witt on the First Team along with Chapatte, Charles Horn of Air Force and Vanja Kalabic of BYU-Hawaii.
Earlier, Air Force, seeded fourth, scored three goals to open the fourth quarter against third-seeded BYU-Hawaii (16-11) in the Third Place Game, turning a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 advantage. The Falcons (16-12) poured in six goals in all in the period, winning 9-6. Charles Horn and Josh Jewett struck for two goals apiece with Murphey Morgan, Lowell Wallace, Eric Baber, Chris Nary and Micah Peterson also getting on the scoresheet as six different players scored for Air Force. Falcon goalie Brandon Shroyer made 15 saves. Stu Johnson and Vanja Kalabic each had a pair of goals for BYU-Hawaii with Kirk Mitchell and Kevin Bebb also scoring for the Seasiders.
Sixth-seeded UC Davis (19-12) edged #8 La Verne (19-9) for fifth place, 8-6. Seniors Brian Combs and Brook Rogers scored two goals each to lead the Aggies while Jamie Turpen, Tom Jay, Aaron Andrikopoulo and Patrick Jacobson provided a score apiece. Jason Kidwell, a senior for La Verne, contributed three goals to keep the Leopards in the game. Robert Casillas, Jason Walters and Mike Saldana were the other La Verne goalscorers. In the Seventh Place Game, seventh-seeded Redlands (17-13) played fifth-seeded Chaminade (10-10) evenly through two quarters as the teams headed into halftime deadlocked at 4-4. The Bulldogs scored three unanswered goals after Chaminade opened the third period with a goal, however, and went on to win the game by the final score of 7-6. Wilson Walters and Spencer Dinnean scored two goals apiece with Aaron Seeks, James Graham and Adam Foley adding single goals. Milos Matijevic tossed in a pair for the Silverswords with Eric Billington, Tim Craycraft, Petar Samac and Konstantinos Chaidemenakis tallying once each.