Aggies Upset LMU, Advance To WWPA Title Game

Aaron Salit's goal with 11 seconds left in the first sudden-victory period ended LMU's four-year reign as conference champions and sent UC Davis to the WWPA title game.<br>(Wayne Tilcock, <I>Davis Enterprise</i>)
 
Aaron Salit's goal with 11 seconds left in the first sudden-victory period ended LMU's four-year reign as conference champions and sent UC Davis to the WWPA title game.
(Wayne Tilcock, Davis Enterprise)
 
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Senior center Aaron Salit scored four goals, including one in the second sudden-victory period, to lead 12th-ranked and fourth-seeded UC Davis to a 7-6 upset over 10th-ranked and top-seeded Loyola Marymount in the semifinal round of the Western Water Polo Association Championship at UC San Diego's Canyonview Aquatic Center Saturday afternoon.

The Aggies improve to 22-11 for the year, advancing to the conference championship game against UC San Diego. This is the third time in five years they have reached that title contest, the winner of which earns a trip to the NCAA Championship.

Salit's four goals led three UC Davis scorers, as redshirt freshman Chris Richardson added two goals and senior Luke Collins chipped in another. Senior goalkeeper Kevin Peat tallied 17 saves, including five in the overtime periods. He also had four steals to lead an already strong defensive effort.

After a scoreless first quarter, LMU freshman Mark Menis put his team on the board with a successful 6-on-5 conversion early in the second. Salit scored the first Aggie goal on an assist from Walter Eggert at 6:12, then Richardson put UC Davis ahead at the 5:20 mark with his shot from the 2 position.

Less than a minute later, junior Colin Hicks drew a five-meter foul from Lion veteran Edgaras Asajavicius. Not only did Collins convert the penalty shot to put the score at 3-1, but it put the WWPA Player of the Year in foul trouble early in the contest.

A Max Schlegel 6-on-5 goal reduced the halftime lead to 3-2 but Salit promptly restored the margin to two by capitalizing on a Richardson entry pass with 6:11 left in the third. Menis struck again on the next possession, again trimming the Lion deficit to a single goal.

Salit completed his hat trick on another Eggert assist with 7:09 left in the fourth, setting the score at 5-3 in UC Davis' favor. Schlegel scored another 6-on-5 goal midway through the frame, then LMU's Robbie Pusic hit the equalizer in transition with 99 seconds left in regulation. The Aggies had another 6-on-5 opportunity with 0:42 left in the fourth but failed to convert. A Collins shot barred out and the game went into extra frames.

Both Peat and Aggie defender Stuart Dooley posted steals in the first overtime segment, but neither team managed to score. However, UC Davis enjoyed a key break when Anders MacCarthy locked horns with Asajavicius. Both players we charged with the 20-second exclusion in a double kickout, but it fouled the Lion's Lithuanian star out of the game with no goals to his credit.

With 2:13 left in the next three-minute overtime segment, Salit drew a kickout and Richardson punched in the shot from the 1-spot to give UC Davis a 6-5 lead. Nonetheless, the Lions tied the game against as freshman Joe Ferretti scored from the three-post to complete a 6-on-5 chance.

Neither team managed to score in the first sudden-victory period, with Peat holding the Lions in check with two saves and another steal. He added two more saves in the second SV frame until Salit, normally not known as an outside shooter, founded an opening high above the cage. He delivered a hard skip shot that entered the cage, lifting UC Davis to the win.

Peat's 17 saves lifts his season total to 324, putting him just six shy of Mike McGee's school record of 330, set four years ago.

UC Davis and UC San Diego will square off in the WWPA title game at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

#12 UC Davis 0 3 1 1 0 1 0 1 - 7
#10 LMU 0 2 1 2 0 1 0 0 - 6

GOALS - UC Davis: Aaron Salit 4, Chris Richardson 2, Luke Collins 1. LMU: Max Schlegel 2, Mark Menis 2, Robbie Pusic 1, Joe Ferretti 1.

GOALIE SAVES - UC Davis: Kevin Peat 17 (43:49). LMU: Kyle Testman 8 (43:49).