Steve Gill’s five goals and UC Irvine’s defense helped the Anteaters to an 11-8 victory over Cal State Long Beach in the first round of the NCAA water polo tournament Friday at Belmont Plaza, sending Irvine into a semifinal at 6 p.m. today against defending champion California.
“They’re a really dominant team,” Gill said of the Golden Bears (24-1) whose only loss this season is to UCLA. “It’s like what Coach (Ted) Newland said, they could have a really bad game, and we’d need to play well to win.”
Cal defeated Irvine, 9-5, this season.
Pepperdine, the tournament’s second-seeded team, will play third-seeded UCLA in the other semifinal at 7:30. The title game of the eight-team NCAA tournament is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday.
No. 4-seeded Irvine (21-7) was playing No. 5 Long Beach (15-10) for the third time this season after winning twice before.
“It was not an easy one, but it was fun,” Newland said.
Irvine took a 3-1 lead as Gill scored three goals in the first eight minutes, but Long Beach came back to tie the score, 3-3, during the second quarter.
Long Beach had a chance to take the lead when former Foothill High School player Brian Costanza got free for a breakaway, but Irvine goalkeeper Andy Nott made a save from almost point-blank range, and seconds later, Pablo Yrizar gave the Anteaters a 4-3 lead going into halftime with the first of his two goals.
The Anteaters pulled ahead by three during the third period, but Long Beach came back again, cutting the lead to two just before the end of the third quarter on a penalty shot by Mike Burke, formerly of San Clemente High.
Burke had three goals, even though he drew much of the attention of the Irvine defense.
Spencer Harris cut Irvine’s lead to 8-6 with a little more than six minutes left, but with 4:36 to go, Irvine’s Steve Froning cut across in front of the net, took a pass from Gill and scored for a 9-6 lead. Burke muscled in a shot 12 seconds later, but Tom Lowrey gave Irvine a comfortable margin with an extra-man goal with 3:54 left.
Long Beach Coach Ken Lindgren said he was somewhat disappointed in his team’s defense.
“We’ve been an outstanding defensive team this year,” he said. “That’s a lot more goals than we give up normally.”
In other matches:
California 13, Navy 6--Led by Chris Humbert’s three first-quarter goals, the Golden Bears took a 6-1 lead and led at the half, 10-2.
Pepperdine 18, Slippery Rock 9--Zachary Holder, formerly of Foothill High, scored three goals in the second-quarter as the Waves pulled away with a six-goal period to take a 9-4 halftime lead.
UCLA 14, UC San Diego 10--Mike Wilmink and Chris Kellerman each scored five goals for the Bruins.