‘Niners endure two OT games to finish with pair of wins at SoCal Tournament
LBSU beats UCI 13-10 to conclude the tournament.
The Long Beach State men’s water polo team finished 2-2 after a weekend of tournament play that was emotionally and physically draining.
LBSU (16-5) went into the UCI Invitational with high hopes of achieving strong results amongst some of the best teams in collegiate water polo.
The ‘Niners were able to open their tournament campaign up with a win over Loyola Marymount on Saturday morning at Corona del Mar High School.
After coming out strong in the first half of play with goals from sophomore Zachary Kappos and a 4-2 lead going into the third quarter, LBSU allowed LMU to climb back into the game.
With 2:27 left in the third, LMU was able to summon a backhand goal from two meters that tied the game 4-4.
“I don’t think we’re at the point where we know how to play with a lead yet,” head coach Gavin Arroyo said after the game. “It’s about controlling momentum, and we’re still working on that.”
After falling behind 6-7 to the Lions in the third quarter, the ‘Niners were able to climb back into the game and take a commanding lead with an outside shot and goal by sophomore Nolan McConnell made it 9-7 LBSU.
In the final moments of the game LBSU’s Devin Mefford iced the game for the ‘Niners with a put-back goal at two meters, giving the 49ers a 10-7 victory.
In LBSU’s second game of the day, the 49ers faced off against the No. 2 Southern California.
The ‘Niners seemed out of rhythm and unable to keep up with the Trojans’ swift counter-attack offense, and in the end LBSU lost by a margin of 14-7.
Day two of the tournament was full of nail-biting games for the ‘Niners.
UCSB got a jump on LBSU early and after the first quarter were in command with a 3-0 lead.
Then, with 1:36 left in the half LBSU senior Carter Taylor was able to narrow the deficit to 3-1 with a goal of his own off of an outside shot from nine-meters out.
Junior Milos Vrsic added a goal of his own off of a six on five series to bring LBSU closer in the match.
This then fed into a momentum switch that ultimately saw the ‘Niners taking the lead 4-3 going into the fourth quarter.
After going scoreless for over six minutes in the fourth, UCSB was able to tie the game at four and then take the lead with a little over a minute remaining.
Down 5-4 with seconds remaining in regulation, Nolan McConnell fired a shot from the right side that slid past the arms of UCSB’s goalkeeper and tied the game 5-5, forcing the game into overtime.
In overtime LBSU was unable to find winning form, though, as UCSB came away with an 8-6 win over the ‘Niners.
“We had a lot of trouble in our shot blocking, we knew they were shooting near side and we just couldn’t get there in time,” Taylor said.
Down but certainly not out, the ‘Niners were right back on the pool deck that afternoon to face off against tournament host UCI.
In similar fashion to the morning’s game, LBSU got behind early on but was able to surge back into the game via goals from Kappos and junior Joey Fabian.
After four energy-depleting quarters of play, the score was knotted at nine, and LBSU faced its second overtime game of the day.
“You just dig as deep as you can to the deepest, darkest corners of your body,” Devin Mefford said.
Two goals by Mefford in overtime helped give LBSU the vital 13-10 upset over UCI.
The win acted as a positive ending to a long, hard fought weekend of play.
“It means a lot when we can come from being down in the fourth, to push for overtime and then push for that win it’s a real morale-booster,” Taylor said.
Arroyo said he was pleased with his team’s resilience.
“It’s a huge step; this morning’s loss [to UCSB] cost us a lot emotionally,” Arroyo said.
The match against UCI acted as a precursor for LBSU’s first MPSF game.
“We’ve got to come back here in a week in a half at night and that’s not going to be an easy task,” Arroyo said.
LBSU will look to carry the momentum into its first MPSF match against the Anteaters on Oct. 24th at UC Irvine Aquatics Center at 7pm.