STANFORD, Calif -- The second-seeded UCLA's men's water polo team survived a scare Saturday evening as the Bruins narrowly defeated third-seeded Princeton 7-5 in overtime in the semifinals of this weekend's NCAA Water Polo Final Four at the Avery Aquatics Center. UCLA (24-3) will face off against top-ranked Stanford (23-4), who defeated Loyola Marymount earlier in the day, at 2p.m. on Sunday in the NCAA title match.
UCLA netted just seven of 37 shooting opportunities for a season low 19 percent scoring ratio. Seniors Peter Belden and Albert Garcia scored two goals each for the Bruins but it was senior Josh Hewko who provided the winning margin as he scored with 2:40 remaining in the second overtime period to give UCLA a 6-4 lead. Garcia would later tally his second goal of the evening at 1:26 to give UCLA its first and only two-point lead of the match.
Princeton goalkeeper Peter Sabbatini kept the Tigers close the entire way with his 12 saves. UCLA's Joseph Axelrad made one stop.
UCLA struck first when Garcia nailed an extra-man goal with just six seconds remaining in the first period. But the Tigers came right back and eventually took a 2-1 lead when Dean Riskas and Jamal Motlagh scored twice for Princeton within a 43 second frame midway through the second quarter. The Bruins tied it up with senior attacker Brett Ormsby's lone goal of the match at 2:07 in the second.
In the third, the teams traded goals up but the Bruins took a 4-3 advantage at 5:45 in the fourth when Belden scored his second goal with a lob shot over Sabbatini's reach.. Princeton's John Stover sent the match into overtime with his goal at 0:45 in the fourth.
Senior center Ted Peck gave UCLA a 5-4 lead when he converted a no-look turnaround shot with two seconds left in the first overtime period. Hewko then gave the Bruins the last goal they would need as he created a 6-4 margin with a quick shot into the back right side of the net. Stover would connect for his second goal at 1:38 but it was not enough for Princeton (25-5).
The Bruins and The Cardinal will meet on Sunday for the fifth time this season. The teams have split the prior four meetings with Stanford winning the most recent contest last weekend in the MPSF Championship match. UCLA will be looking to capture its eighth national title while Stanford is attempting to win its 11th.
UCLA's women's soccer team will also be playing for a national title on Sunday as it takes on Notre Dame in Cary, North Carolina at the NCAA Soccer Cup Finals. Prior to Sunday, UCLA has won 94 national championships.
Teams 1 2 3 4 OT1 OT2 F Princeton 0 2 1 1 0 1 5 UCLA 1 1 1 1 1 2 7 UCLA Goals: Albert Garcia 2, Peter Belden 2, Brett Ormsby, Ted Peck, Josh Hewko Princeton Goals: John Stover 2, Dean Riskas, Jamal Motlagh, Michael Murray Goalkeeper Saves: Joseph Axelrad (UCLA) 2; Peter Sabbatini (Princeton) 12