Women's water polo: San Diego State beats Wagner, advances to first round of NCAA tournament
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- San Diego State took an early 3-0 lead and never looked back in defeating Wagner, 7-4, Tuesday afternoon in an NCAA Championship Play-In Game at Canyonview Aquatics Center on the campus of UC San Diego. With the win, the Aztecs move on to the championship field of eight, which will begin on Friday at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center.
The Aztecs, who snapped Wagner's 14-game winning streak, opened the game with Makena Magro winning the opening sprint, which was a sign of things to come. After SDSU (18-16) got into its offense, Alyssa Diacono drew an ejection and the Aztecs wasted no time as Nikole Ferrari found Magro, who punched in the game's first goal just 35 seconds in. Ferrari doubled San Diego State's advantage with a long-range strike less than two minutes later. Soon thereafter, Diacono drew another ejection, which led to Caroline Israels' first goal with the assist going to Ferrari.
On the game's next possession, SDSU stole the ball away from Wagner (29-10), but seconds later, turned the ball back over to Wagner, which took advantage of the opportunity. With the Seahawks having numbers offensively, Kimberly Watson scored Wagner's first goal of the afternoon. San Diego State later got the goal back with 2:48 left in the first when Tayla Walsh found herself with the ball at set and flicked it to Ferrari, who scored to give the Aztecs a 4-1 lead.
The scoring slowed in the second quarter as the defense tightened up. But much like the first quarter, Magro won the sprint and Diacono scored from two meters out off a pass from Ferrari. Wagner's Jess Lundgren answered less than minute later off a lob shot to cut the Seahawks deficit in half at 4-2. Then with just over two minutes left in the first half, Wagner was whistled for an ejection and SDSU wasted little time as Israels fed Diacono for her second goal of the day.
When play resumed after a halftime break, Diacono gave San Diego State a 7-2 lead after yet another successful power-play opportunity. Wagner's Lily Doerfler rounded out the scoring in the third period with a goal with 3:55 left, sending the Aztecs into the fourth quarter ahead, 7-3.
Lundgren scored the only goal of the fourth quarter with 3:34 left to provide the final margin.
San Diego State goalkeeper Rachel Mitchell continued her outstanding play of late as she finished with 11 saves. Her performance comes after she made a total of 34 saves at the GCC Championship where she was named tournament MVP.
The Aztecs will now move to the NCAA championship bracket where top-seeded USC awaits. San Diego State will face the Women of Troy on Friday at 3:30 p.m. PT at Spieker Aquatics Center.
SAN DIEGO STATE POSTGAME QUOTES
San Diego State Head Coach Carin Crawford
On the fast start:
"It seemed like in the first half we scored all the goals we needed and after that it was just defense to close it out. I felt like every time they threatened in the second half to close to within three, we had a stop and had an answer. It is unusual to play a game where you score all the goals you need in the first half but it is a great position to be in. You have to make sure you use every possession, go deep into the shot clock, to try and get a reset if possible and try and defend like crazy. I think my team executed really, really well. We held their leading goal scorers to minimal impact. Only giving up four goals for the entire game is an outstanding defensive effort.
On heading to the NCAA quarterfinals:
"We are so thrilled. We started our season with a lot of goals. Some of them we had to cross off, we were not going to achieve certain markers. This one was the big prize at the end. It has been quite a journey to get here. We had to get through a conference championship tournament that was quite an adventure in a sudden victory win and we knew this hurdle would not be easy one. It is such a great feeling of satisfaction to be heading to the NCAA championship."
San Diego State goalkeeper Rachel Mitchell
On opening with a 3-0 lead:
"We have been working all season for that moment. We have been trying our best to get those goals and combine that with our best defense. We have trying and we succeeded and that was the most important thing for us."
On heading to the NCAA quarterfinals:
"In January, before the games even started, we said `everything we do and every game we play is for this reason'. We worked all season for this moment and we are so excited to finally be able to play in this tournament and we are ready to go and play our heart out."
On playing with a lead as a GK and defense:
"This game we said `we are not giving up, we are not slowing down, we are not going to back off. We are going to keep this lead and we are going to continue.' It starts with defense and our defense won this game for sure."
San Diego State is now 4-3 all-time in NCAA tournament play... The four goals allowed today against Wagner match the fewest the Aztecs have allowed in an NCAA tourney game... The three-goal victory is the largest for the Aztecs in NCAA play since defeating Pomona-Pitzer, 11-4, on May, 10, 2009 (seven years ago today)... San Diego State has allowed four goals or less in three of its last six games this season (3-0)... The Aztecs have matched a season best by winning three consecutive games... 11 of SDSU's 18 victories this season have come away from home.