A late fourth quarter surge by the No. 7 Long Beach State men’s water polo team came up short Saturday, as the 49ers were defeated by No. 4 Stanford 10-9 during an intense game at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.
LBSU (11-11, 1-2 Golden Coast) battled from the jump against Stanford, as both teams put up stingy first-half defensive performances. With junior goalie Thomas Freeman out for undisclosed reasons, freshman goalie Marwan Darwish got the start, recording five saves.
Junior defender Austin Stevenson and senior utility Jacob Fujioka put up goals in the first quarter as the 49ers trailed the Cardinal 3-2. In the second quarter, junior attacker Chandler Kaltenbach scored the lone goal for Long Beach, trailing 4-3 at the halftime break.
Stanford opened the second half with four of the next five goals as Stanford stretched the lead to 8-4 late in the third quarter. Senior center Duncan Lynde scored with eight seconds left to cut the lead down to 8-5 for the 49ers heading into the fourth.
As emotions began to flare in the fourth quarter, Long Beach head coach Gavin Arroyo was penalized with a red card and ejected from the game with 3:44 left to play.
The ejection sparked a fire under his players and as the 49ers trailed 10-6 in the final quarter, redshirt sophomore attacker Austin Stewart began the rally with 3:24 left to play. Sophomore attacker Nemanja Bakic scored two of his three fourth quarter goals with two minutes left. Looking to send the game to overtime as time expired, Lynde winded up a shot that missed and left the crowd in heartbreak.
“We showed a lot of heart, nobody was out there playing to lose,” Lynde said. “We didn’t get what we wanted but it was a big step in the right direction. I got some new film to play over in my mind when I’m trying to go to sleep now. It’ll keep me up at night.”
“This is a great group of guys,” Lynde said. “It’s really nice coming here and then having a family, a group of guys who are just automatically ingrained into your life.”
Arroyo had some high praise for his five seniors.
“They’ve given everything — we test them, we push them — and they really blossomed into solid young men.”
The 49ers faced Long Beach City College in an exhibition matchup after the senior day honors, beating them 17-4 behind balanced goal scoring as Arroyo was able to play a wealth of guys.
Next up for the 49ers are the final two Golden Coast Conference games of the season against San Jose State and No. 6 UC Irvine as well as a non-conference game at LMU.
Long Beach is looking to finish out the regular season strong and head to the conference tournament with some momentum to come out on top.
“We’ve just got to find ourselves a little better and have some more confidence,” Arroyo said. “That’s the key. Not fake confidence, it’s got to be real confidence. In order to win conference there’s going to be some pressure and we’ve got to be able to handle that.”