No. 11 Water Polo Secures Outright GCC Regular-Season Title
April 13, 2017
SAN DIEGO -
No. 11 San Diego State defeated both Azusa Pacific and Concordia on Thursday afternoon at Aztec Aquaplex to finish off an undefeated Golden Coast Conference season and win its fourth straight GCC regular-season title.
SDSU opened the afternoon by defeating the Cougars, 8-3, before returning to the pool to down the Eagles, 13-7. The victories moved the Aztecs to 17-12 overall and 7-0 in league, marking San Diego State’s fourth consecutive undefeated conference record. In four GCC seasons, the Aztecs are 26-0 in league games.
“We got two great wins today,” head coach Carin Crawford said. “Alyssa Diacono really broke open the game vs. Azusa Pacific in the fourth quarter. We sealed that win, came right back to play Concordia and had another great victory where we got to see the younger players get some action and clinch a four-peat, which is unbelievable to think that since the inception of our conference, we have not lost a regular-season game. It is a huge challenge and we try not to talk about it because we take every game, every quarter and every possession, and just try to win those small battles. But to have that amount to four straight regular-season titles, it’s going to take a while to sink in, but it’s a pretty phenomenal feeling.”
The Aztecs took the first step toward clinching another championship when Ioli Benekou gave the home side a 1-0 lead over Azusa Pacific. The power-play goal gave SDSU a lead it never relinquished.
The early advantage, however, did not guarantee an easy win as APU answered the Benekou goal with a power-play goal of its own. Caroline Israels later pushed SDSU ahead with a floater and the Aztecs carried a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Scoring came at a premium in the first three quarters. After a three combined goals in the opening eight minutes, the teams each scored once in the second frame. Benekou teamed with Israels on a 6-on-5 advantage and Arianne Yeo found the back of the net for the Cougars as the game moved to halftime with SDSU up, 3-2. Then in the third quarter, Benekou scored the lone goal, on another power play, to give the Aztecs a 4-2 cushion entering the final period.
As Crawford mentioned earlier, Diacono broke the game open in the fourth quarter by scoring on SDSU’s first possession and again less than a minute later. On the second goal, the senior banked a shot off the crossbar, but gathered the rebound and ultimately scored. Then on the Aztecs’ next possession, Diacono drew a penalty and Benekou cashed in on the penalty shot to put SDSU out in front, 7-3. Paola Vizcarra added San Diego State’s final goal and APU’s Britt Harris snapped a 16-minute, 48-second scoring drought to provide the final margin.
Kate McDonnell made seven saves for the Aztecs, who clinched at least a share of the GCC regular-season crown with the decision.
After a 10-minute break, San Diego State returned to the pool to face Concordia with a chance to clinch the outright conference regular-season title.
The Aztecs wasted no time, getting a Hannah Carrillo goal 59 seconds into the game. That goal led to three additional goals, one apiece from Makena Magro, Israels and Benekou, to lift SDSU to a 4-0 lead after one quarter.
The Eagles, however, responded with three consecutive goals to open the second period, but Israels gave the Aztecs some breathing room with a goal just ahead of the halftime horn. SDSU led at intermission, 5-3.
When played resumed, the Eagles received a goal from Emily Varisco to bring them to within one. Diacono, much like the first game, ended the threat, this time swimming the ball into the cage. That spurred a 4-0 run that included goals from Magro, Israels and Vizcarra.
San Diego State led the Eagles, 9-4, at the start of the fourth quarter and it quickly became a four-goal game when Hanna Jordan tickled the twine. The Aztecs, however, scored four of the game’s final six goals to win easily. Shelby Kraft, Vizcarra (twice) and Mikayla Vessey were responsible for SDSU’s final four goals.
Maura Cantoni started the game in net and gave way to Emily Lowell at halftime. Lowell made five saves to help the Aztecs secure the top seed at the GCC Championship, which is set for April 28-30 in Santa Clara.
“Going into the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed puts in a great position,” Crawford said. “It lets us rest and be prepared on the day the other teams have to fight through to advance. We’re looking forward to wrapping up the regular season next Saturday for Senior Day and the Harper Cup, and taking that momentum into conference to try to win another conference championship.”
The Aztecs are off until Saturday, April 22, when they play host to UC San Diego. First sprint is scheduled for 1 p.m. PT at Aztec Aquaplex. Admission for the Harper Cup game is free.