LA JOLLA, Calif. - The three Aggie seniors -- Spencer Galli, Morgan Olson-Fabbro and 2017 WWPA Player of the Year Cory Laidig -- each scored two goals to help No. t8-ranked and top-seeded UC Davis pull away to a 9-6 win over 12th-ranked and second-seeded UC San Diego in the championship game of the Western Water Polo Association men's tournament.
The Aggies, winner of back-to-back conference titles, earn the WWPA's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship. The improve to 22-6 for the year, while the Tritons end their season at 11-14.
"San Diego did an outstanding job," said UC Davis' Child & Meisel Families Director of Water Polo Daniel Leyson. "We knew it was going to be really hard, and they confirmed that. They played really tough. In the end, we emerged victorious but my hat is off to UC San Diego. They played tough and pushed us to the limit."
Besides the three senior scorers, the UC Davis was led by junior goalkeeper R.J. Quigley, who recorded nine saves and two steals in his complete-game win. Among his stops was a block on a five-meter penalty shot by Triton sophomore Skyler Munatones early in the contest. Junior Marcus Anderson, redshirt freshman Jack Stafford and sophomore Eric Martel also scored for the Aggies.
The Tritons received a hat trick from sophomore utility Cooper Milton, whose two goals boosted the tourney hosts to a 2-1 start during the first 6:40 of play.
Laidig, Galli and Olson-Fabbro each hit goals as part of a second-quarter run that put UC Davis on top by a 4-2 margin with 3:53 left in the half, only to have UCSD answer with goals from Turnbow-Lindenstadt and Noah Carniglia, knotting up the board at 4-4. With 20 seconds left before the halftime break, Laidig drew an exclusion then converted the ensuing power-play opportunity. That gave the Aggies the 5-4 edge at the intermission.
UC Davis extended its lead to 7-4 with a minute to go in the third before UCSD rallied back to within a 7-6 deficit early in the fourth. However, UC Davis stopped the comeback run when Martel fired in a goal from set with just 1:52 left. Oddly, he nearly mishandled the play, briefly losing grip on the ball. The chemical engineering major from Abbotsford, B.C. kept his composure, picked up the ball, and fired it past UCSD goalie Sam Thompson.
Galli scored his second goal with 1:04 remaining when he walked up and glanced a shot off the hand of Thompson into the net. Anderson posted a key field block on the opposite end to help protect the margin.
This is the fourth WWPA championship for UC Davis, which previously won back-to-back in 1996 and 1997. Galli captured WWPA Tournament MVP honors while Olson-Fabbro and junior Ido Goldschmidt joined him on the first team. Laidig was selected to the all-tourney second team.
"I want to enjoy this because this means a lot," said Leyson. "This season was a little bit different in that we were sort of the favorite. Being the favorite brings some different pressures. In some ways, it can be more difficult than being the underdog. Sometimes you can play a little bit more freely when you're the underdog. I just want to sit back and enjoy the fact that we were the favorite, we actually pulled it off, and in San Diego, which is so hard."
"Again, I credit San Diego for being a very tough opponent, but we're going to enjoy this for a few moments then we'll think about what's to come next."
2017 WESTERN WATER POLO ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONSHIP, DAY 3
Canyonview Aquatic Center (La Jolla, Calif.)
|No. 12 UC San Diego (11-14)||2||2||1||1||-||6|
|No. 8t UC Davis (22-6)||1||4||2||2||-||9|