A seven-goal explosion from sophomore utility Chris Richardson helped the 16th-ranked UC Davis men’s water polo team come from behind to defeat No. 18 Santa Clara, 13-11, on Sunday.
Richardson’s career high was key in bringing the Aggies back from an 8-5 deficit, to win their regular season finale and snap a five-game losing streak.
With the victory — which marked the third time UCD has defeated SCU (9-17) this season — the Aggies improved to 13-16 overall and 11-5 Western Water Polo Association play.
Richardson’s offensive output was the highest scoring total by any UCD player since 1997, when All-American Mike Gotelli scored seven or more on four different occasions. Richardson is now the fourth Aggie player to manage a seven-goal game since UCD began compiling such statistics in 1993. He joins Gotelli, Dave Schauer (1993) and James Damm (1993).
Sunday’s impressive outing was aided by two goals from senior Matt Vowell and one each from Jared Clapham, Kevin Meisel, Stuart Dooley and Anders MacCarthy.
Sophomore Matt Kochalko hit four goals to lead the Broncos. Drivers Mark Davis and Jimmy Moore each scored two.
Kochalko scored three of his goals in the first quarter to help Santa Clara grab a 4-3 lead. Vowell and Dooley briefly put the locals on top with successive goals during the first two minutes of the second quarter, but the Broncos converted three 6-on-5 opportunities in a 4-0 run to claim the 8-5 edge with 1:39 left until intermission.
Seconds later, Richardson hit a five-meter penalty shot, and Vowell followed by scoring his second goal to close the gap to 8-7 at halftime.
Richardson hit another five-meter early in the third period to tie the game at 8-8, but freshman James Rude restored the Bronco lead with his goal at 4:42. SCU then defended against two Aggie power plays before Richardson scored back-to-back goals within a span of 45 seconds to give UCD a 10-9 lead, which was stretched to 12-9 on goals by Richardson and MacCarthy.
The Broncos closed to within a single goal when Kochalko’s power play made it 12-11 at the 1:38 mark before Richardson answered with an immediate score on the next possession to bump the deficit back to two. After that, the Aggies successfully defended the rest of the way.
Sunday’s contest closed out the regular season for UCD, which will compete in the WWPA tournament at Whittier from Friday through Sunday. The winner earns the automatic berth to the NCAA championship, hosted by USC on Dec. 1-2.
After her killing spree in the last couple of matches — road sweeps over Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara — Aggie senior Allison Whitson was named the Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday
It’s the second time Whitson, from Palo Alto, has been honored this season, and the third time in her prolific UCD career. She is now ranked second in Aggie history in both career kills and career attacks.
Whitson got this most recent award by tallying 39 kills for a 6.50 per-set average and hitting .326 in the two weekend victories, helping UCD climb into fourth place in the Big West.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter opened the weekend with 19 kills and a .472 attack average against the Mustangs on Friday. She finished the match with back-to-back kills, as the Aggies turned a 23-18 deficit into a 29-27 win in the third set.
The following night, Whitson slammed 20 kills and posted her 16th double-double of the year with 11 digs, to lead UCD to a road victory over the Gauchos. Like in Friday’s match, Whitson’s offense was particularly crucial in the 29-27 third set — she tallied 10 kills on 22 swings, including back-to-back kills to finish the match.
Her 20-kill performance was the best by an Aggie for a three-set match since Kayla Varney notched that total against Fresno State on Aug. 31, 2007.
Whitson previously won the Big West’s weekly award on Sept. 10, after earning tournament MVP honors at the Fresno State Classic. Her first conference accolade came on Sept. 26 of last year.
Whitson will compete in her final two home matches this weekend against Cal State Northridge (Friday at 7 p.m.) and No. 7 Hawaii (Saturday at 7 p.m.). She will be honored along with fellow departing seniors Caroline Mercado and Kaitlyn Plum in post-match festivities. Tickets are available through tickets.ucdavis.edu.