Water polo improves to 2-1 in conference play, loses Harper Cup

San+Diego+State+water+polo+freshman+utility+player+Laurene+Padilla+attempts+a+shot+during+the+Aztecs%27+11-4+win+over+No.+18+Loyola+Marymount+on+March+20%2C+2021+at+the+Aztec+Aquaplex.

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

San Diego State water polo freshman utility player Laurene Padilla attempts a shot during the Aztecs’ 11-4 win over No. 18 Loyola Marymount on March 20, 2021 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

by Breven Honda, Senior Staff Writer

No. 15 San Diego State water polo played two critical matches last weekend. The first was at the Aztec Aquaplex against No. 18 Loyola Marymount and the other was at No. 10 UC San Diego for the coveted Harper Cup — the yearly rivalry match between the two schools. 

The Aztecs won its Golden Coast Conference match against LMU 11-4 on March 20. On the following day, it was a different story as SDSU lost its opportunity to get the Harper Cup in a 10-7 loss. 

Match one: Aztecs defeat LMU, move to 2-1 in GCC play

The Aztecs’ defense came through allowing four goals and outscoring Loyola Marymount 5-0 in the fourth quarter. 

Senior driver Karli Canale, who leads the team in scoring, had one goal but helped her teammates in other ways. She had three assists and led the team in steals with three. 

However, it was senior utility Emily Bennett who got the team going offensively, scoring a match-high four goals — also a season-high for the Oakdale, Calif. native.  

In addition, Bennett recorded two assists for a match-high six points. 

Senior utility Maddie Higginson and junior driver Delaney Binette each scored a pair in the victory. 

In total, six different Aztecs scored enroute to SDSU’s third win of the season and its second in GCC play. 

When the Lions (1-2, 1-2 GCC) scored their second goal in the second quarter to tie things up at two, SDSU’s defense stayed strong as the Aztecs finished the half on a 3-0 scoring run and finished the game on a 9-2 run. 

Junior goalkeeper Raquel de Pinho, who transferred from West Valley Community College last summer, recorded seven saves and two steals as she was in goal for the duration of the game. 

Match two: No. 10 UCSD retains Harper Cup for another year

Every team has its version of a rivalry game and so does SDSU. What was different this year compared to in year’s past was the Aztecs and Tritons got to see each other earlier in the season on Feb. 19 at the Aztec Aquaplex. 

That game went into triple overtime and the Navy Blue and Gold outlasted the Scarlet and Black 9-8. 

Fast forward two months later on March 21 and the two teams squared off again, this time in La Jolla, Calif. at the Canyonview Aquatic Center for the Harper Cup. 

This match did not go triple overtime, but UCSD (5-3, 1-0 Big West Conference) pulled off the 10-7 victory over SDSU. The Tritons retain the Harper Cup for the fifth consecutive year. 

Junior driver Jessica Lekich scored the opening goal and senior utility scored the match’s third goal for the Aztecs’ only leads. 

Lekich scored twice on five shots along with an assist. Bennett also scored twice and had an assist. Bennett, the three-time All-American also recorded three steals. 

De Pinho played in her eighth consecutive match on Sunday and recorded another game with seven saves. 

In her eight games on the season, the Rio de Janeiro native, has 74 saves, a .487 save percentage and seven steals. 

Up next, SDSU (3-13, 2-1 GCC) takes on one of its most competitive conference matches of the season against No. 9 Fresno State (7-4, 3-0 GCC) on March 27 at 1 p.m.

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