MPSF Championship Tournament was hosted by UCLA and held on April 28-30. Seven water polo teams competed for the MPSF title and automatic position in the NCAA Championship. UCLA Bruins overpowered Stanford to win the Championship, while the defending champions USC finished 3rd.
Day One saw Stanford, USC and California emerge as winners of the quarterfinal matches.
Stanford stormed past CSU Bakersfield, 14-2. Cardinal left their rival scoreless in three quarters, allowing them to score only two goals in the second period. Maggie Steffens found the net four times to help her team proceed to the semifinals. Their opponent was USC who crushed San Jose State, 17-2, in the quarterfinal game. The Trojans scored ten unanswered goals in the first half leaving no doubt about who will win the match.
California Bears advanced to the semifinal clash after a close contest with Arizona State. The game was balanced in the first half which ended in a draw (3-3). Cal water polo players woke up in the third when they netted three consecutive goals for 8-5. Arizona State could not find a way back into the game and had to prepare for the 5th place match. Cal’s rival in the semifinal match will be the top-seeded UCLA water team which had a bye-day number one in the Tournament.
Arizona State’s rival for the 5th place was determined in a match between other two water polo squads that were defeated in the quarterfinals, CSU Bakersfield and San Jose State. After a goal-by-goal play in the first quarter, Ashley Paz scored third for Arizona State to end this period with a one-goal lead (3-2). The Sun Devils continued to increase the advantage in the second and went on a break with 6-3. CSU Bakersfield stroke back in the second half, but failed to equalize. Paz contributed to her team’s triumph with six goals.
Close contests determined the finalists. Both Stanford and UCLA beat their opponents by one.
Cardinal achieved a two-goal advantage in the first quarter (3-1), which they kept after a goalless second period. They increased it to three in the third, but the USC woke up and scored three consecutive goals for a tie. Stanford managed to bring back the lead before the last quarter (5-4). Fischer netted the last one for Stanford and Haralabidis one for USC. Although the ball was in their possession with less than a minute left on the clock, the Trojans failed to equalize. Stanford came away with a narrow win to become the first finalist.
The second semifinal battle between UCLA and Cal was marked with seesaw-result in the first quarter which was tied. UCLA water polo players then scored three goals in the second for a three-goal lead (6-3), but the Bears returned three and scored one more to take over the lead (6-7). Cal water polo squad had the advantage at the beginning of the last quarter (7-8), but brilliant Musselman netted an equalizer, and Halligan scored the winning goal.
Arizona State water polo players finished 5th after overpowering CSU Bakersfield, 13-4. Crucial was their offense which was on point in the first period when they scored 6 goals
The defending champion USC triumphed over California water polo team to win the consoling 3rd place. After a result seesaw in the first half, the Trojans stepped up their defense in the third quarter and scored two unanswered goals which were essential for their victory. Although USC had 5-3 eight minutes before the end, the Bears would not give up and responded with three goals taking over the lead in the fourth (5-6). However, USC returned the three goals and won the 3rd place.
UCLA water polo players proved too strong for Stanford in the final game. They were struggling in the first half when Stanford was in the lead at one point (3-2), but they tied the result by the break (3-3). The Bruins made a comeback in the second half leaving Cardinal scoreless. In the third quarter, Fattal netted her third goal and Tielman also found the net for a two-goal advantage. The final result was set by Williams who scored goal number six for UCLA who won the 11th MPSF title.
MPSF Championship Tournament (April 28-30)
Game 1: #2 Stanford vs. #7 CSU Bakersfield 14-2 (5-0, 4-2, 1-0, 4-0)
Game 2: #3 USC vs. #6 San Jose State 17-2 (6-0, 4-0, 6-1, 1-1)
Game 3: #4 Arizona State vs. #5 California 7-9 (2-2, 1-1, 2-4, 2-2)
Game 4: CSU Bakersfield vs. San Jose State 10-9 (3-2, 3-1, 1-2, 3-4)
Game 5: Stanford vs. USC 6-5 (3-1, 0-0, 2-3, 1-1)
Game 6: #1 UCLA vs. California 9-8 (3-3, 3-2, 1-3, 2-0)
5th/6th place: Arizona State vs. CSU Bakersfield 13-4 (6-2, 3-1, 2-0, 2-1)
3rd/4th place: USC vs. California 8-6 (2-2, 1-1, 2-0, 3-3)
1st/2nd place: Stanford vs. UCLA 3-6 (1-2, 2-1, 0-2, 0-1)
Photo: Catharyn Hayne / KLC fotos