Water polo splits doubleheader on first day of Aztec Invitational


Aaron Tolentino

Sophomore driver Dani D'Andrea attempts a shot during the Aztecs' 11-3 victory in an exhibition against Toronto on Feb. 14 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

by Breven Honda, Staff Writer

No. 22 San Diego State water polo lost to the Azusa Pacific Cougars 10-9 and beat the St. Francis Red Flash 12-6 on March 8 at the Aztec Aquaplex.

Head coach Carin Crawford said she knows that when the Aztec Invitational comes, it brings teams nonconference competition.

“It’s a nice opportunity to have teams, usually the east coast teams come in,” Crawford said. “Teams play nonconference opponents. Instead of a bracket, we schedule so everyone plays teams that they don’t play very much, that haven’t showed up on their schedule, or are out of their conference.”

In the opener of the Aztec Invitational, the Scarlet and Black came up short, but had opportunities in their first Golden Coast Conference matchup.

“If you give up momentum to start a game, then you’re always a step behind to get some traction,” Crawford said. “We never were able to consolidate any momentum and get ourselves a little bit of a cushion.”

The Cougars started on a 3-0 run in the game’s first five minutes before sophomore utility Emily Bennett scored the Aztecs’ first two goals in a matter of 32 seconds.

Crawford liked the way Bennett played, who finished with a game-high four goals.

“I think Emily Bennett played really well,” Crawford said. “They were a couple of calls she could have received, but it wasn’t something in our control. I thought she really played well all the way through.”

Playing Azusa Pacific helped the Aztecs find one spot to improve on–intensity.

“That game, I think our intensity was better; however, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Bennett said, whose four goals tied the season-high with junior utility Shelby Kraft back on Jan. 20 at Hawaii.

This was the Aztecs first conference match of the season against Azusa and coming off the loss where they had opportunity to tie and force overtime, the home team had to move on and get ready for the next game.

“I think (our intensity) stayed the same,” Bennett said. “We just had to keep our intensity up from the first game.”

After an early goal for St. Francis, the Aztecs turned up its intensity with an 8-0 run that lasted into the third period.

Sophomore driver Karli Canale contributed by scoring during a span where the Aztecs scored three times in 1:49 during the third period.

Despite scoring 12 goals, the Red Flash had a two goalie defense against the Aztecs, but was no match.

“It was weird seeing that,” Canale said. “We had to go over it again to remember because it’s not a normal thing that normal teams run, but we got a handle on it and figured out (how) to beat the goalie.”

The Aztecs (6-8) head back to the pool on March 9 for Day two of the Aztec Invitational facing a couple of ranked teams with No. 17 Long Beach State at 10:30 a.m. and No. 24 Bucknell at 2:15 p.m.

Crawford said how the team can respond after the split.

“Usually when we score nine goals, that’s good enough to win,” Crawford said. “If we can score nine goals and play better defense, I think we’ll be in position to win the game, so that’s really our focus.”

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