Dec. 4, 2011
BERKELEY, Calif. - The UCLA men's water polo team dropped a 7-4 decision to USC in the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship match Sunday afternoon at California's Spieker Aquatics Complex.
USC (24-3) secured its fourth consecutive NCAA title before a capacity crowd, receiving one goal from each of seven players.
Trojans' goalkeeper Joel Dennerley earned Tournament MVP honors, collecting 14 saves in the title match Sunday afternoon.
"I liked how we started off, where we were able to hold off their first tidal wave, per se," UCLA head coach Adam Wright said. "In a flash they had a 2-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. They got out of the gates scoring on four of their first six [6-on-5 opportunities]. You've got to give USC credit."
UCLA took the game's first lead on a penalty shot from Josh Samuels with 3:05 remaining in the opening period.
USC scored two goals back-to-back in the closing minutes of the quarter. An extra-man goal from Michael Rosenthal (2:35) and another score from Connor Virjee with one-half second left in the opening quarter pushed USC ahead, 2-1.
The Trojans increased their advantage to 5-2 by halftime. USC scored the first three goals of the second quarter to lead 5-1. Samuels found the back of the cage on a 6-on-5 play for the Bruins with 2:29 to play before halftime, reducing the Trojans' margin to 5-2.
USC maintained its lead in the third quarter, surging ahead 6-2 with 90 seconds to play in the frame on a goal from Kostas Genidounias. UCLA's Paul Reynolds scored with 19 seconds left in the period, closing the team's deficit to 6-3.
Each team traded goals in the fourth quarter. USC scored at 7:30 on a goal from Jeremy Davie, and UCLA's Brett Hays found the back of the cage with 4:19 to play.
"This team is hungry, and we'll learn a lot from this," Wright said. "You have to give credit to Joel Dennerley. He's a heck of a goalie. We did have our opportunities. We just didn't take advantage of them."
UCLA suffered its second loss to USC in the NCAA Championship match in its last two NCAA Tournaments, having dropped a 6-5 decision to the Trojans in the 2009 NCAA title contest at Princeton University.
"If you don't capitalize on your opportunities, then that's the story, and that's what happened," Samuels said.
"USC had a good all-around defensive effort," Hennessy said. "It came down to opportunities and we couldn't capitalize. They took their field blocks on five-man and we didn't."
Hennessy and Samuels were two of the seven first-team selections on the All-NCAA Tournament Team. UCLA's Cristiano Mirarchi and Griffin White, along with goalkeeper Matt Rapacz, secured second-team acclaim.
The Bruins have gone 52-24 in NCAA Tournament contests, posting an 8-8 record in the championship game, dating back to 1969 when UCLA won the NCAA Championship in its first NCAA Tournament.
Sunday's meeting marked the seventh between UCLA and USC in the NCAA Tournament and just the second contest in the title match between the crosstown rivals.
UCLA concludes its 2011 campaign with a 24-5 record, logging program's highest single-season win total since 2004.
No. 2-seed UCLA vs. No. 1-seed USC (NCAA Championship match)
USC Goals: Jeremy Davie, Kostas Genidounias, Mace Rapsey, Michael Rosenthal, Stephen Siri, Nikola Vavic, Connor Virjee
USC Saves: Joel Dennerley 14
2011 NCAA Men's Water Polo All-Tournament Team
Joel Dennerley (goalkeeper), USC
Peter Kurzeka, USC
Josh Samuels, UCLA
Nikola Vavic, USC
Cullen Hennessy, UCLA
Thomas Nelson, Princeton
Graham Saber, UC San Diego
Matt Rapacz (goalkeeper), UCLA
Jeremy Davie, USC
Griffin White, UCLA
Cristiano Mirarchi, UCLA
Mace Rapsey, USC
Brian Donohoe, UC San Diego
Drew Hoffenberg, Princeton