NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In the first of five matches on its annual California road trip, No. 22 ranked Iona dropped a 14-8 decision against No. 11 University of California San Diego.
The only time that these two squads previously played was at the 2011 NCAA Championship seventh-place game when UCSD won 15-9.
Junior Rebecca Koshy led the Gaels (3-8) with a career-high four goals, while sophomore Hannah Schultz hit two straight in the fourth period. Senior Meghan Mahoney and senior Rebecca Matthews added one score each. In the goal, freshman Jordin Hale had two saves in the first half, and sophomore Britten Villander had three saves and one steal in the second half.
On defense, the Gaels made 11 steals with three from Schultz and two from sophomore Karli Normand. Iona drew six UCSD kick outs with Mahoney forcing three, while the Gaels were only ejected four times. Senior Sarah Bortz blocked one shot for Iona.
Currently in first placed in the Western Water Polo Association standings, the Tritons (14-6) opened the match with three unanswered goals, until Koshy put Iona on the board with 3:14 gone. UCSD scored again with 4:18 left for a 4-1 lead going into the second period, as the Gaels failed to capitalize on their first 6-5 advantage in the closing minute.
In the second quarter, the hosts reeled off six consecutive scores, until Mahoney scored from the left side with 1:25 left to halftime. Koshy’s second score narrowed the Tritons advantage to 10-3 with 41 seconds to go, but UCSD hit a five-meter penalty shot for a 11-3 lead at intermission.
The third quarter saw both teams hitting two goals each. The Tritons tacked on two more scores in the first two minutes of the third quarter, then Matthews hit the back of the net on a 6-5 power play with 5:38 left. Just 1:04 later, Koshy hit her third goal to narrow the host’s lead to 13-5 with 4:21 to go.
Iona outscored UCSD 3-1 in the fourth quarter. With 2:22 gone, the Tritons upped their lead to 14-5, but Schultz answered with 3:40 left. Schultz added her second score on a 6-5 advantage 1:21 later, then Koshy skipped in a five-meter penalty shot to pull the Gaels within six 14-8 with 1:44 left, but UCSD held on for the win.
Although pleased with his squad’s number twenty-two national ranking, Iona head coach Brian Kelly was disappointed with Iona’s early-game mistakes against “one of the top teams in the country.”
“It’s too late in the season for us to start games without communication and make mental mistakes,” Kelly said. “You do that against one of the top teams in the country you’re going to get buried from the start.
“We had a solid second half, and fought back late. We had outstanding performances by sophomore Britten Villander, senior Meghan Mahoney and junior Rebecca Koshy.”
On Friday and Saturday, the Gaels travel to the California Baptist Tournament in Riverside, CA, for matches against George Washington, California Baptist, LaVerne and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.