RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Santa Clara men's water polo was on the cusp of its second-straight upset in the Western Water Polo Association Championship, but a late goal from UC San Diego ended a shot at playing in the league title game.
Skyler Munatones' goal with 22 seconds left snapped the sixth tie of the game and lifted the second-seeded Tritons to a 7-6 victory over the Broncos in Saturday's semifinals and a trip to Sunday's conference championship.
Santa Clara (15-12), seeded No. 6, will play host California Baptist, in the third-place game.
Munatones, Carter Hilde-Jones and Kaden Likins each had two goals for the Tritons (20-7) who will play top-seeded UC Davis for the championship and a berth the NCAA Tournament.
The Broncos pulled ahead each time the game was tied until the third period.
After Pagano's strike pushed Santa Clara into a 4-3 lead, Karlo Krmek evened the score midway through the third and Hilde-Jones' second goal made it 5-4 UCSD early in the fourth.
But Pagano tied it up off a feed from Mac Carey, one of his four assists in the game, with 4:08 on the clock. Likens followed with a go-ahead goal 3 minutes later, but Kirk drew an ejection with 55 seconds left and then scored the equalizer off a feed from Shane Hughes to knot it at 6-all.
On the ensuing possession, Munatones took control of the ball off a restart and was able to find just enough to the left of goalie Chase Zamborelli for the game-winner.
Carey scored with 1 second left during regulation in Friday's game, one that was eventually won in overtime by the Broncos, but they couldn't find the same magic.
Adam Low had one final attempt with 2 seconds left but it was blocked before reaching UCSD goaltender Jack Turner who was credited with 10 saves.
The Broncos will face California Baptist on Sunday at 10 a.m. for third place in the WWPA Championship.