Defense Gives Lions Title
Led by WWPA Tournament MVP Elise Ponce, Lions claim ninth WWPA title since 2001.
April 29, 2012
LA JOLLA, Calif. - LMU Head Coach Kyle Witt has been preaching defense throughout the 2012 season, and it was defense that came through at the end. Defense helped LMU claim its ninth WWPA title since 2001 thanks to a 7-6 win over UC San Diego in the championship game of the 2012 Western Water Polo Association Women's Championships at UC San Diego in La Jolla, Calif., on Sunday afternoon.
Defense ruled the day, as senior goalie and WWPA tournament MVP Elise Ponce made 14 saves and helped the Lions hold UCSD to just 2-for-12 on the 6-on-5 attack. Freshman Mackenzie Beck led the Lions with four goals while Erin Manke, Alexandra Honny and Kimberly Benedetti added a goal each.
"We fought through a lot of kickouts today. UC San Diego did a lot of good things, and did a great job in drawing kickouts. It tested our depth, but our freshman and sophomores responded and it was an all around team effort," said Head Coach Kyle Witt.
The Tritons led 3-2 after the first quarter, but the Lions scored the only two goals of the second quarter as Ponce had her fifth shutout quarter of the tournament.
"Elise had a great game in the cage and anchored our defense," said Witt. "Our defense is coming together. I think the girls did a great job in working together. We got a lot of field blocks in front of Elise and fought off those extra-man attacks."
The Lions extended their lead to 5-3 as Honny scored with 6:04 to play in the third quarter. The teams would trade goals - Sarah Lizotte's third of the game and Beck's third - to make it 6-4 with 2:51 to play.
With less than two minutes to play, UCSD's Kirsten Bates and LMU's Beck traded goals to make it 7-5 heading into the fourth. It was Beck's fourth and would be the game winner.
The Tritons cut the lead to one, 7-6, with 4:42 to play on Bates' second goal. LMU would fight off another 6-on-5 and Ponce made four saves in the final four minutes to win the title.
Ponce anchored four Lions on the WWPA All-Tournament team, earning the MVP honors. She was a first-team selection along with Honny and Beck. Earning second-team honors was Whitney Delgado.
The Lions earn the WWPA automatic bid to the 2012 National Collegiate Women's Water Polo Championship hosted by San Diego State May 11-13, 2012.