Water Polo

Aztecs' Upset Bid Falls Short vs. Cal, 7-6

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April 29, 2011

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The seventh-seeded SDSU women's water polo team pushed second-seeded Cal to the edge at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament on Friday morning, but a costly fourth-quarter ejection spoiled an upset bid as Cal prevailed, 7-6.

The MPSF quarterfinals game, which was hosted by San Jose State University at The Aquatics Center in San Jose, Calif., was a seesaw affair that featured four lead changes and six tie scores.

Sophomore Amber Pezzolla, SDSU's leader in shots this season, found pay-dirt just 32 seconds into the contest, setting the tone for a game for the ages. Cal made quick work in their response, as Breda Vosters tied the game only 50 seconds later. The two squads would trade power plays until Cal's Dana Ochsner put one past junior goalkeeper Kelly Campoli midway through the opening frame to put SDSU behind for the first time in the game.

The Aztecs' scoring drought would finally end at the 6:22 mark in the second quarter, when senior Sarah Brady sank her 40th goal of the season to tie the game at two apiece. The Aztecs' penalty woes would then catch up to the team, as Cal's Emily Csikos capitalized just seven seconds into a Rachel Miller ejection to give back the Bears the lead at 4:47. In a true display of veteran leadership, Brady answered right back at 4:13 with her second goal of the game. The scoring flurry would not stop there, though, as Cal's Elizabeth McLaren gave the Bears the lead again at 3:50. The Aztecs would reach back over the next three minutes until they received help off the bench from Los Gatos, Calif., native Meghann Pedersen, who tied the game at four to close out an outstanding first half of action.

Campoli made six saves in a very busy first half, while Cal's Stephanie Peckham made seven. The differential would prove to be a sign of things to come.

The Aztecs came out of halftime as a team confident in its ability to beat anyone in the nation, and it showed. Senior Ronni Gautschi, who bounced back this year from a season-ending injury in 2010, gave SDSU its second lead of the game when she scorched Peckham on a hard strike. Once again, Cal quickly fought back with a goal of its own, this time coming by way of Ashley Young. A defensive battle would then ensue over the next six minutes, as Campoli and Co. fought off two penalties to keep the score deadlocked at five. Ochsner would then make a nice move for her second goal of the day, putting SDSU down by one to set up a thrilling fourth quarter of play.

The Scarlet and Black had scored first in each of the first three periods on Friday, and the fourth proved to be no different. Held to only one shot so far in the contest, junior Leanne Ford finally solved the Bears' defense at 7:39 for her team-leading 56th goal of the season. SDSU then received another boost courtesy of a Young ejection less than a minute later, but the Aztecs let the opportunity slip away on the ensuing power play. SDSU then fell into ejection trouble of its own, as Ford was called out at the six-minute mark. A strong defensive effort thwarted Cal's chance to claim the lead, but junior Meaghan Poland SDSU right back on their heels with her ejection at 4:31.

In a stunning sequence of events, Vosters, who scored six goals against the Aztecs back on April 9, was awarded a penalty shot and launched the ball past Campoli for a 7-6 lead. SDSU would have one more golden opportunity on the power play at 2:32, but the Aztecs were unable to find their offense as time expired on their NCAA Tournament hopes.

"I couldn't be more pleased about the way we played," said head coach Carin Crawford. "It was a tie ball game at half and we were in position to win the game in the fourth quarter. We took some pretty good attempts and had had our chances, but we needed better execution on our last couple of 6-on-5's. Campoli blocked a penalty shot and played a great game for us. We just didn't stop the second penalty, and that proved to be the difference."

San Diego State, ranked No. 9 nationally, now enters the MPSF Tournament's consolation bracket and will play third-seeded No. 5 Hawai'i at 11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday. Hawai'i is coming off an 11-9 loss at the hands of tournament host San Jose State, the No. 6 seed in this year's event. SDSU lost at Hawai'i in their only meeting this year, 17-7.

No. 2 Cal def. No. 9 San Diego State, 7-6
The Aquatics Center - San Jose, Calif.

SDSU 1-3-1-1--6
CAL 2-2-2-1--7

SDSU goals: Brady 2, Gautschi, L. Ford, Pedersen, Pezzolla
CAL goals: Ochsner 2, Vosters 2, Csikos, McLaren, Young

SDSU saves: Kelly Campoli - 12
CAL saves: Stephanie Peckham - 13