Everybody anticipated a third straight NCAA final game between USC and UCLA. 2014 and 2015 both saw USC and UCLA fighting for the NCAA crown. In 2014 USC was trying to make history by not losing an NCAA final game since 2007. UCLA had different plans, they were able to defeat the six time champions two years in a row and were looking to make it three. The Cal Bears had different plans. The NCAA semi-finals saw USC easily defeat Harvard and on the other side of the bracket Cal was able to defeat UCLA in overtime 9-8. UCLA would have to settle for being either third or fourth best in the nation and Cal was given the opportunity to win an NCAA championship.
The first quarter of play saw USC go up two goals to nothing. James Walters was able to grab a rebound off save by Cal and slam it home. Less than a minute later Zach D’Sa managed to push that lead to 2 by an outside shot. The Trojans held onto this two goal lead, and things looked good for the Trojans, but Cal was not going anywhere.
The second frame of action saw Cal get on the board, but also saw the Trojans continue to push their offense and defense. Johnny Hooper managed Cal’s first goal of the game and cut the USC’s lead to one. Matteo Morelli was able to stretch the lead again to two with less than two minutes left in the half for the Trojans in a man-up situation. The game went into the half Trojans up 3-1
The third quarter saw Cal come within one goal two times, but ultimately it was the Trojans who pushed just a little bit harder ending the third quarter up 5-3. Goals from Marin Dasic, Blake Edwards and Thomas Dunstan helped push USC’s head to two but the fourth quarter of play would prove to be something no one would expect.
The fourth quarter saw Cal score three straight goals. First a goal from Conor Neumann to cut USC’s lead to one. The next goal came from 2016 olympian Luca Cupido which brought both teams to five goals a piece. A goal from Safek Simsek pushed Cal into their first lead of the game. USC would manage to tie the game with a huge shot from Blake Edwards. The two teams would trade goals and finish regulation tied 7-7.
In the first three minutes of overtime the bears were awarded a five meter penalty shot and Johnny Hooper had no problem putting the shot away and securing the lead for his team. James Walters who scored the first goal for USC would go on to score the last goal as well and tie the game again 8-8. This is the last time USC would score and Cal would go on to score two more goals. The first goal, and also the game winning goal was put away by Farrel South to put his team up 9-8. The next goal which came off a five meter foul and shot from American Olympian Luca Cupido found its way into the back of the net after being tipped a trojan defensemen. The Cal Bears entered into the second three minutes of overtime up 10-8. The second overtime saw the Cal Bears play dominant defense and allowed no more goals to be scored by the Trojans. One last goal was scored by the Bears as the Trojans tried to steal the ball and that was it. The Cal bench cleared as did half the crowd and everyone was in the pool. The Cal Bears were once again the NCAA champions, the first time in 9 years and their 14th overall men’s water polo title. USC will have to settle for second for atleast one more year.