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Story and photos by Liz Alper
April 13, 2017 (San Diego) - San Diego State water polo closed out Golden Coast Conference play today with a doubleheader. Their first game was against Azusa Pacific University.
Ioli Benekou, the senior defender from Greece, got the Aztecs started right away with a goal in the first quarter to put SDSU up 1-0. But Azusa Pacific senior center Alex Paxton tied it up, so senior utility player Caroline Israels stepped in and fired in a goal to give the Aztecs the 2-1 lead again.
Benekou barely squeezed the ball past the Cougars’ junior goalie Erica Marquez for the first Aztecs goal of the second quarter and a 3-1 SDSU lead. Azusa Pacific sophomore two-meter Arianne Yeo bounced it up and over San Diego State’s junior goalkeeper Kate McDonnell’s head to narrow the gap to 3-2 Aztecs at the half.
Benekou notched her hat trick with a rocket into the net for the lone goal of the third quarter to give the Aztecs back the two-goal lead at 4-2.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Aztecs. Senior center and one of SDSU’s scholar athletes of the year, Alyssa Diacono, scored two back-to-back goals to open the final frame and Benekou scored her fourth goal to catapult the Aztecs to a 7-2 lead. Redshirt sophomore center Paola Vizcarra scored her first to give the Aztecs an 8-2 lead. Senior attacker Megan Myers did score for Azusa Pacific, but the Aztecs held strong and came away with a big 8-3 win to tie for first place in the Golden Coast Conference.
The second match of SDSU'S season-ending doubleheader was against Concordia University.
Just as they did an hour earlier, the Aztecs got started right away. Sophomore driver Hannah Carrillo scored right off the bat in the first quarter to give the Aztecs a 1-0 lead. Another driver, senior Makena Magro, made it 2-0 and senior utility player Caroline Israels followed it up with her first goal to make it 3-0. Senior defender Ioli Benekou ended the first quarter with a penalty shot goal to put the Aztecs up 4-0 after eight minutes.
In the second, the Eagles started to mount a comeback. Senior utility player Emily Varisco put the Eagles on the board, but the Aztecs were still up 4-1. Freshman two-meter Shannon Graham hooked it in to narrow the Aztecs’ lead to two at 4-2. And just like that, the Aztecs’ lead was down to one on another Eagles goal. At the buzzer, Israels potted a goal and the Aztecs held onto a 5-3 lead at halftime.
Varisco scored the first goal of the second half to bring the game back to a one-goal contest, but the Aztecs owned the rest of the third quarter. They put it back up to two and led 6-4. Magro made it 7-4. Israels bounced it in for her hat trick and made it 8-4. Redshirt sophomore center Paola Vizcarra lobbed a beautiful backhand shot into the goal and SDSU pulled away and led 9-4 after three.
A rapid back and forth began the fourth quarter.
Freshman attacker Hannah Jordan scored first for the Eagles, then freshman utility player Shelby Kraft scored for the Aztecs. Graham ended the fast pace with her second goal and the score stayed at 10-6 SDSU for a while. Vizcarra eventually made it 12-6 with two goals, giving her her hat trick. Senior driver Mikayla Vessey got in on the scoring and made it 13-6 Aztecs.
The Eagles scored again, but the Aztecs got the 13-7 win to move into first place in the Golden Coast Conference.
The Aztecs face UCSD next Saturday in the Harper Cup at 1:00 p.m. at Aztec Aquaplex.