SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Despite a balanced offensive attack and an efficient power play, Santa Clara men's water polo was unable to pull off the upset against UC San Diego in Thursday's Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) tilt.
Nick Alexander scored three goals and tallied five assists, including one on the game-winner, to help the 14th-ranked Tritons (13-6, 5-0) to remain perfect in league play by downing the Broncos, 11-10, in Sullivan Aquatic Center.
Reilley May scored a career-high three times to lead three Santa Clara (11-13, 2-3) players with multiple goals.
After trailing by as many as four goals in the first half, the 20th-ranked Broncos rallied and nearly sent the game into overtime.
Cooper Milton's goal, off an Alexander feed, with 4:26 left in the game increased the Tritons lead to 11-8. But Graham McClone scored one of his two goals less than two minutes later on a penalty shot. Will Grant, who also had two scores, hit the back of the net on the man advantage with 2:08 left to cut the deficit to 11-10.
Santa Clara had the ball twice in the final minute, but was not able to muster a good scoring opportunity. UCSD goalie Jack Turner, who had 11 saves, turned away Sam Toriggino's last-ditch effort with two seconds left.
"They are a very good team," Santa Clara head coach Keith Wilbur said. "I thought we played them tough. We played with a lot of energy and they fought all the way through. I liked what I saw by being it in until the last possession."
The Broncos went a blistering 4-for-6 with the man advantage and connected on their lone penalty attempt. They also held the Tritons to just 1 of 9 with the extra attacker, but defensive breakdowns proved to be the difference.
"Our defensive awareness was not very good," Wilbur said. "We gave up a couple easy goals where we could have helped each other. It's having our head on a swivel and having better awareness. That's where we can improve."
Mac Carey had one goal and two assists for the Broncos who never led and trailed 7-3 at the half before striking twice early in the third period to start the comeback.
Keaton Fox got the start in net for Santa Clara and made 12 saves.
The Broncos close out the regular season Saturday when Loyola Marymount visits on Senior Day. The game is set to start at noon in Sullivan Aquatic Center.
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