UCLA Men's Water Polo Seeks National Championship #119 Today
The Bruins and the Trojans upset Stanford and UC Berkeley, respectively, yesterday to set up today's battle for the title.
There will be a new national champion in men’s water polo after the UCLA Bruins defeated the Stanford Cardinal yesterday, 11-10. That means that the Bruins will play the Southern Cal Trojans this afternoon for the NCAA title at 2 pm PT because Southern Cal defeated UC Berkeley, 12-10, in the second semifinal yesterday.
Last Time Out
UCLA never trailed against the Cardinal yesterday. The Bruins got on the board first when Gabe Discipulo scored just over two minutes into the game. While the Cardinal tied it on a power play goal just 30 seconds later, Tommy Gruwell’s power play goal with 4:01 to go put UCLA back in front. Unfortunately, Stanford responded again just 24 seconds later. Another power play goal put the Bruins back out in front when Hayden Nightingale scored with 1:03 to go in the first and Guillermo Ocasio gave the Bruins a two-goal advantage with just three seconds left, giving UCLA a 4-2 lead after one.
The second quarter saw the first three goals all come on power plays. Stanford scored first in the period, just 43 seconds in. Gruwell and Jake Cavano increased UCLA’s lead to 6-3 with 4:28 and 3:37 left, respectively. Stanford added a full-strength goal just 27 seconds after Cavano’s goal. Freshman Mo Kenney picked up another power play goal for the Bruins with 2:30 left in the half, but Stanford responded 23 seconds later. The final goal of the first half came from Chasen Travisano with 1:40 left and UCLA took an 8-5 lead into the break.
The third quarter only saw a pair of goals scored. Unfortunately, both belonged to the Cardinal as Stanford closed the gap to 8-7, Bruins.
There were three goals scored in the first minute and 23 seconds of the fourth quarter. Two of those goals were from Nicolas Saveljic at 7:22 and 6:37 to go. Saveljic’s power play goals sandwiched another Stanford goal, giving UCLA a 10-8 lead. Then, a pair of Stanford goals tied the game, 10-10, with 1:43 left, but Gruwell completed his hat trick 30 seconds later and the Cardinal weren’t able to respond, ensuring there will be a new national champ crowned this afternoon.
Southern Cal Trojans
While UC Berkeley seemed to be the best overall team all season long, when the Big Four are all competing for the NCAA title, all bets are off. First, they dropped the MPSF championship game to Stanford and, with it, they lost the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. That meant that, instead of playing the Bruins, the Golden Bears drew Southern Cal in their semifinal game.
It looked like the Bears would be the team facing UCLA this afternoon for the national championship as UC Berkeley led the Trojans 8-7 after three quarters. Southern Cal had other ideas. The Trojans, playing in their home pool, even went down by two goals 43 seconds into the start of the fourth. Over the next seven minutes, the Bears completely collapsed. The Trojans scored five times in the fourth quarter, taking a 12-9 lead. The only offense the Bears could muster came with a late goal, but it was too little, too late and the Trojans advanced to today’s title game.
Today’s game will be the sixth meeting between UCLA and Southern Cal this season. The teams split a pair of games at UC Berkeley in January. The Bruins won their second game against the Trojans at Southern Cal’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center in February, 7-5. But the Bruins lost to the Trojans at Stanford a month ago and, then again, in the MPSF Tournament in Westwood two weeks ago.
I think most people would give the Trojans the edge since this afternoon’s title game is a home game for them, but I think Adam Wright will be able to sufficiently motivate the Bruins to another win over their rivals, given that there won’t be a crowd there cheering the Trojans on. UCLA wins a close one, 9-8, possibly in overtime.
NCAA Men’s Water Polo National Championship Game
Opponents: #3 UCLA Bruins (8-7) vs. #4 Southern Cal Trojans (8-8)
Game Time: 2:00 pm PT, Sunday, March 21, 2021
Where: Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles, CA
Live TV/Audio: None
Live Stream: NCAA.com
Live Stats: TheFosh.net
NCAA Tournament Central