The 2017 MPSF finalists faced each other again in the NCAA title match which took place on December 3 at Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Los Angeles.
UCLA Bruins won their 11th NCAA title, third in four years, by defeating USC Trojans (7:5). After failing to advance to the last year’s NCAA championship game, the Bruins dropped the chance for claiming their 3rd consecutive NCAA title. However, now they are back to being on top again.
USC Trojans lost 4th title match in a row and this is their 3rd loss to UCLA in four championship games (2014, 2015, 2017). In the 2016 NCAA finals, they were beaten by California. Trojans are obviously having a tough time trying to get back on the throne, since 2013 when they won their 6th straight NCAA title. However, they must be satisfied with the fact that they have played 13 consecutive finals.
BRUINS OVERPOWER TROJANS IN L.A. FINAL DERBY
Sunday’s title match was the 7th encounter of these two water polo teams in the NCAA Championship finals. Until Sunday, both teams recorded three wins against each other.
USC water polo players got off to a better start. They took a 2:0 lead after Matteo Morelli and Marin Dasic each found the net once. UCLA squad was struggling during the first quarter and remained scoreless for almost seven minutes. Quinten Osborne finally scored the first goal for the Bruins and cut the deficit (1:2). It was an equal duel in the second period. Zach D’Sa raised his team advantage in the middle of the quarter, but Alex Roelse responded 21 seconds before the halftime (2:3) helping UCLA to keep parity.
The second half saw no goals for more than four minutes. Then Matt Farmer netted the first equalizer demonstrating that the Bruins are determined to win. James Walters quickly put USC back into the lead, but this only lasted for about a minute, because Max Irving found the net for another tie. UCLA came into the lead for the first time 44 seconds before the end of the third quarter when Roelse scored his second goal. Bruins had a minimum advantage before the final eight minutes of the game (5:4) and their hopes high as they managed to take over control.
However, Trojans refused to surrender and stroke back in the fourth period. The result was tied again after Blake Edwards’ goal during the second minute of the quarter. Farmer’s second goal put UCLA back into the lead. USC water polo players were no longer able to surmount their opponent’s defense. The final result was set by UCLA’s goalie Alex Wolf who noticed the unguarded USC’s cage. He seized the opportunity and threw the ball all the way from his cage, and scored just two seconds before the buzzer. Wolf also recorded 10 saves and ended up being the Championship’s MVP.
This was UCLA’s 4th triumph over USC which brought them the title.
UCLA 7:5 USC
(1:2, 1:1, 3:1, 2:1)
UCLA: Osborne (1), Roelse (2), Farmer (2), Irving (1), Wolf (1)
USC: Dasic (1), D’Sa (1), Walters (1), Edwards (1), Morelli (1)
Recent Men’s NCAA Water Polo Championship winners:
2001 – Stanford
2002 – Stanford
2003 – USC
2004 – UCLA
2005 – USC
2006 – Cal
2007 – Cal
2008 – USC
2009 – USC
2010 – USC
2011 – USC
2012 – USC
2013 – USC
2014 – UCLA
2015 – UCLA
2016 – Cal
2017 – UCLA
Teams with most NCAA titles won:
California – 14
UCLA – 11
Stanford – 10
USC – 9