Nov. 26, 2011
LOS ANGELES - The No. 3-seed UCLA men's water polo team secured a crucial 7-6 victory over No. 2-seed California in a semifinal match of the MPSF Tournament before 1,267 fans at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday afternoon.
Paul Reynolds broke a 6-6 tie in the first of two three-minute overtime sessions, scoring at the 1:25 mark. UCLA's defense held California scoreless the rest of the way, sending the Bruins (22-4) into the championship match against crosstown rival USC (22-2) on Sunday at 3 p.m.
UCLA advanced to the MPSF Tournament's title game for the second time in three years.
"Cal has played very well at our pool the last few years, and for us to get the win was huge," UCLA head coach Adam Wright said. "We know that the winner of tomorrow's match against USC advances to the NCAA Tournament, and we've worked very hard to get to this point. It's a lot of training for a short period of time to play games. I told our guys that when you've got a chance, you better seize it."
UCLA advanced to the semifinals after defeating Pepperdine, 5-4, in overtime on Friday afternoon. The winner of Sunday's title match secures an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. UCLA could still capture a tournament berth as the one "at-large" representative (to be determined by Sunday evening).
In Saturday's semifinal match, California (21-4) trailed, 6-3, with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter. But the Golden Bears used a 3-0 scoring run until the game's final minute to close the gap and send the contest at UCLA into overtime.
Ivan Rackov led California with two goals. UCLA received two goals each from Reynolds and Griffin White.
With 53 seconds to play in the third quarter, Rackov scored to close the Golden Bears' deficit to 6-4. Following Rackov's goal, UCLA's Chris Wendt and Cal's Ayal Keren were assessed majors and ejected from the game.
Cal's Giacomo Cupido scored with 5:14 to play in the final quarter, reducing UCLA's cushion to 6-5. With 22 seconds left in the game, a five-meter penalty was called against UCLA's Bret Lathrope. Bruins' assistant coach Daniel Leyson was issued a red card (ejected) and Cal's Rackov tied the game, 6-6, slamming home a penalty shot.
Neither team scored in the final 22 seconds of regulation.
Reynolds scored the game's only overtime goal, scoring at the 1:25 mark in the first of two overtimes. In the final overtime session, UCLA wrested control of the ball with 27 seconds to go. Cal had one opportunity to score in the final three seconds and was unsuccessful.
UCLA never trailed against California. The Bruins led 1-0 after an early 6-on-5 goal in the first quarter from Josh Samuels (3:56). The Golden Bears tied the game, 1-1, on a score from Collin Smith with 3:01 left in the opening frame.
The Bruins used a 2-0 scoring run in the second quarter to secure a 3-1 cushion by halftime. UCLA received an extra-man goal from White (3:23) and an even-strength goal from Reynolds (2:15).
UCLA led 4-1 with 4:20 left in the third period on a 6-on-5 goal scored by Paul Pickell. After Cal's Cory Nasoff scored with 3:43 left in the third quarter, UCLA's Brett Hays answered with a goal from two meters, putting the Bruins ahead of the Golden Bears, 5-2.
"I was proud of how our team responded on defense," Wright said. "We had some big stops, especially playing two overtime games the past two days. Our defense has been good but we can always be sharper."
UCLA finished 3-for-10 on power-play opportunities. The Bruins limited California to two goals in 10 power-play chances.
Both MPSF Tournament semifinal matches on Sunday will feature a live audio broadcast and live video stream through the tournament website at uclabruins.com. Stanford faces California in the third-place match at 1:30 p.m., and UCLA takes on USC in the championship game at 3 p.m.
No. 2-seed California vs. No. 3-seed UCLA (MPSF Tournament Semifinal)
California Goals: Ivan Rackov 2, Giacomo Cupido, Cory Nasoff, Luka Saponjic, Collin Smith
California Saves: Justin Parsons 7