Courtesy: Air Force Athletics
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Four different Falcons had hat tricks and A.J. Kuypers made 13 saves to lead Air Force to a 13-12 overtime win over Santa Clara in a Western Water Polo Association game Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Cadet Natatorium.
Air Force, ranked 19th in the nation, improved to 16-3 overall and 5-1 in the WWPA. The Falcons won their fourth straight game and closed out the home schedule with a perfect 9-0 record.
Sam Fuller gave the Falcons an early lead, but the visiting Broncos took a 4-3 lead at the end of the first. The Falcons cranked up the defense in the second quarter, outscoring the Broncos, 4-1, for a 7-5 lead at the half. Grant Snyder and Ian Christie each scored two goals. The teams traded goals in the third quarter. After Santa Clara tied the game at 8-8, Snyder drew a penalty and then scored on the penalty shot for a 9-8 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Christie’s third of the game put the Falcons up 10-8, but the Broncos scored the next two, tying the game with 43 seconds left. Air Force had the final possession and went 7-on-6. A shot by Christie went high in the final seconds. The Santa Clara goalie had the ball, looking to hit the empty net at the other end. However, Jones blocked it off of his hand and his shot went just over the bar at the buzzer.
In the first overtime, the Broncos scored first, but the Falcons scored the next two. Fuller scored from Snyder on the power play with 1:28 left. Snyder then forced a turnover and Jones scored with 60 seconds left for a 12-11 lead. The Broncos tied the game with 37 seconds left.
In the second overtime, Jones netted the eventual game-winner from Christie with 2:17 left and the Falcon defense did the rest. Christie had a steal and Kuypers made a save in the final minute. SC’s Ford Eldredge took a shot with two seconds left that went off the cross bar.
“Santa Clara is a great team,” head coach Ryan Brown said. “We had to overcome some mistakes, but the guys fought hard. A.J. played great for us and kept us in it. We have been saying all season that it starts with our defense. Defense wins games. The guys did a great job today and now we have to keep it going. Gavin is one of our top defensive players, but he has a strong offensive side as well and scored some big goals for us today.”
Air Force hits the road for five games in three days in California. The road trip begins with the WWPA’s top team, UC Davis (10-5 overall, 4-0 WWPA) on Friday, Oct. 22, at noon in Davis, Calif. Air Force will then play four games in two days at the Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament in Santa Clara, Calif.