Wednesday night’s game between Long Beach State and No. 13 UC San Diego was nothing short of thrilling, as sophomore attacker Austin Stewart capped off the sudden death overtime period with a striking goal.
No. 8 LBSU (10-9) sealed its first win in six games behind three goals from Stewart and junior defender Austin Stevenson. Stewart, the 49ers’ leading goal scorer this season, has struggled throughout the team’s losing streak. After scoring only two goals in the past three games, Stewart exploded for three goals against the Tritons in the 11-10 overtime win.
“My shooting has been a little off lately but it’s not going to stop me from putting up open shots when they’re there,” Stewart said. “You have to rise to the moment and I wasn’t gonna not shoot it when I was open.”
The 49ers got off to a slow start in the first quarter against the Tritons, only scoring twice behind goals from senior center Duncan Lynde and Stewart. UC San Diego put the pressure on Long Beach’s defense early, totaling four goals throughout the first quarter.
The defense locked down on the Tritons for the rest of the second half, not allowing a single goal. Stevenson and Lynde each punched in goals to tie the game 4-4 at halftime. The 49ers and Tritons went back and forth in the third, exchanging goals as the quarter ended with Long Beach leading 8-7.
As the game transitioned to the fourth quarter, intensity and tensions began to rise at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center. 49ers’ junior goalie Thomas Freeman keyed big saves in the goal while nodding fingers and talking smack to opposing San Diego players. Long Beach’s defense tightened again in the fourth quarter, only allowing two goals. The 49ers’ offense was only able to muster one goal, from sophomore attacker Nemanja Bakic. Both teams had several opportunities to score at the end of the quarter, but neither executed as the game would go into overtime tied 9-9.
In the first overtime period Long Beach junior attacker Chandler Kaltenbach connected for a goal with 1:39 left. Neither team scored again, and the game continued to a second overtime period. As time nearly expired in the second overtime, the Tritons’ Alessandro Valania scored a buzzer-beating shot to move the game into a period of sudden death.
After both teams failed to score in the first sudden death period, the game went into a second sudden death period where Stewart hit a game-winning shot to cap off a hat trick.
“San Diego is a good team,” head coach Gavin Arroyo said. “We underperformed tonight, I think we kind of can’t get out of our own way but hopefully we can work through it and be ready for Friday.”
On Friday, the 49ers will take on No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, seeking their first win in Golden Coast Conference play.