We are one game away from finding out who will be the 2017 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Champion. UCLA and USC triumphed in the semifinals and will face each other in the title game on December 3. The two teams also played the MPSF finals on November 19 when USC triumphed (7:5).
December 2 saw two thrilling encounters. The defending champion was defeated by USC Trojans who now have a chance to become the champion after four years, while UCLA will try to seize the opportunity and win the third title in four years.
UCLA BEATS PACIFIC AFTER COMEBACK
The first minute of the game saw no goals. Then Bruin Jack Grover netted the opener. After unsuccessful attempts of both teams, Nicolas Saveljic increased UCLA’s lead to two. Pacific stroke back three minutes before the end of the first quarter and cut the deficit thanks to Engin Ege Colak. In the last minute of the period, Luke Pavillard netted an equalizer and then found the net once again to put his team into the lead for the first time (2:3). Even though Tigers demonstrated that they would not surrender, UCLA stepped up in the second quarter and left their rival scoreless. Bruins went on a break with a two-goal advantage (5:3).
In the second half, UCLA got off to a better start again as Felix Brozyna-Vilim put UCLA ahead 6:3. Pacific woke up, but was only able to decrease the deficit to two on one occasion (6:4). UCLA continuously raised the difference and entered the final period with a nice 9:6 lead. Tigers were falling behind by two during the entire fourth quarter and failed to surmount the deficit. Bruins preserved the control until the end and accomplished a significant 11:9 triumph leading them to the finals.
UCLA’s top scorer was Saveljic who scored three goals. Roelse, Grover, and Irving each netted a pair. On the other side, Pavillard also recorded a hat trick.
UCLA 11:9 Pacific
(2:3, 3:0, 4:3, 2:3)
CAL FALLS IN HEARTBREAK TO USC
Cal water polo team failed to defend the title after a narrow loss to USC (12:11). Trojans took the first lead after Matt Maier found the net. Bear Safak Simsek’s attempt was stopped by McQuin Baron, but Ryan Hurst tied the result. That was just the beginning of a thrilling semifinal clash. USC went ahead 4:1 after brilliant performances and goals by Grant Stein, Zach D’Sa and Matteo Morelli. Then Simsek excelled and beat the buzzer to bring down Cal’s deficit to two (4:2). The second half saw an equal duel at first; USC resisted Cal’s attacks and preserved the two-goal advantage. However, Luca Cupido’s goal brought the Bears close to a tie, and Vassilis Tzavaras equalized one minute before the break and gave his team high hopes ahead of the second half (6:6).
Motivation of both teams was obvious at the beginning of the third period as the teams took turns in scoring. Marko Vavic scored for USC, but Simsek responded appropriately, and Nicolas Carniglia put Cal back into the lead. Bears even went ahead 10:7, but were unable to stay in control, so they only had a minimum advantage before the final eight minutes (9:10). Trojans overpowered their defense and prevailed in the end. Cal struggled and tied the result once, but it seemed as if the Bears had no strength for another turnover. Stein netted one for the win with two and a half minutes left to play. In spite of both teams struggling to score, neither of their attempts was successful.
The game’s top scorer was Simsek with four goals, while two Trojans – Vavic and Stein – each netted three.
USC 12:11 Cal
(4:2, 2:4, 3:4, 3:1)