Nov. 30, 2011
LOS ANGELES - The UCLA men's water polo team seeks its ninth NCAA Championship this weekend and first since 2004, as the Bruins travel to Berkeley, Calif. No. 2-seed UCLA opens the tournament against No. 3-seed UC San Diego on Saturday at 3 p.m. UCLA defeated UC San Diego, 9-4, in the teams' only meeting at UCSD's Canyonview Pool in La Jolla, Calif., on Nov. 6.
Games at California's Spieker Aquatics Complex (Berkeley, Calif.)
Saturday, Dec. 3
1 p.m. -- USC (22-3) vs. Princeton (21-9)
3 p.m. -- UCLA (23-4) vs. UC San Diego (17-9)
Sunday, Dec. 4
1 p.m. -- Third-Place Game
3 p.m. -- Championship Game
Follow the Bruins in Berkeley
This weekend's NCAA Tournament matches will feature a live video broadcast online, through ncaa.com. Both semifinal matches Saturday, in addition to the third-place game and championship match Sunday, will be streamed online. Fans can follow live updates of the matches in progress through UCLA's water polo Twitter account (twitter.com/uclawaterpolo).
UCLA Wins MPSF Championship
Serving as tournament host last weekend, UCLA won its second MPSF Tournament title in the last three years Sunday with a 10-9 win over USC in sudden-victory overtime. Cristiano Mirarchi scored the game-winner with 2:06 remaining in the third overtime session. UCLA defeated California in overtime, 7-6, on Saturday. The Bruins opened the tournament with a 5-4 overtime win against Pepperdine on Friday at Spieker Aquatics Center.
Similar Situation to 2009
Two years ago, UCLA won the MPSF Tournament, securing the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. UCLA accomplished that feat against last Sunday and will face a nearly identical tournament field this weekend. The Bruins open the tournament against the WWPA Champions, like in 2009, only this time UCLA will take on UC San Diego (faced Loyola Marymount in 2009). The other semifinal is a rematch of 2009, with top-seed USC taking on No. 4-seed Princeton.
Bruins' Balanced Scoring Attack
UCLA received 10 goals from 10 different goal scorers in its 10-9 title-clinching win over USC last Sunday, a feat rarely witnessed in a water polo match. The Bruins last won a match without a multiple-goal scorer on Oct. 22, 2005, as eight players scored for UCLA in an 8-2 home MPSF win over UC Santa Barbara. Cristiano Mirarchi's game-winning goal on Sunday came on just his second shot attempt of the contest against USC.
Who's Leading the Bruins?
Junior Josh Samuels enters the NCAA Tournament having totaled a team-best 46 goals and 45 steals. He ranks eighth among MPSF players with a 1.84 goals per match average. Senior Cullen Hennessy leads the Bruins with 36 assists and ranks fourth with 17 steals. Sophomore Aimone Barabino has collected a team-leading 70 earned exclusions, including seven in last Sunday's 10-9 win against USC. Senior Brett Hays has logged 47 earned exclusions, the second-highest total on the team.
Excelling in Overtime
The Bruins have gone 4-0 this season in overtime games (all in November). In fact, UCLA's two wins in sudden-victory overtime have ended with Cristiano Mirarchi scoring the game-winning goal. His first overtime game-winner came as the Bruins edged Pacific, 13-12, at home on Nov. 4. In three years as UCLA's head coach, Adam Wright has led the Bruins to a 5-0 record in overtime.
UCLA Against This Year's Field
vs. USC TROJANS
USC's Record: 22-3
UCLA vs. USC: 2-2
The Bruins evened their record against USC, 2-2, with a 10-9 sudden-victory overtime win over the Trojans last Sunday in the MPSF Tournament's title match. Last season, UCLA went 0-4 against USC. In 2009, the Bruins went 2-3 against USC with a 10-6 win in the MPSF Tournament and a 6-5 loss in the NCAA Tournament's title match.
vs. UC SAN DIEGO TRITONS
UCSD's Record: 17-9
UCLA vs. UCSD: 1-0
UCLA notched a 9-4 win at UC San Diego on Sunday, Nov. 6, in the two schools' only meeting of the season. Seven UCLA players scored in that game, as Paul Reynolds and Griffin White led the way with two goals each. The Bruins have gone 3-0 all-time against UCSD in the NCAA Tournament.
vs. PRINCETON TIGERS
Princeton's Record: 21-9
UCLA vs. Princeton: 0-0
UCLA has not faced Princeton this season. The Bruins last played Princeton at home in the SoCal Tournament on Oct. 2, 2010, earning a 13-2 win.
Adam Wright Named MPSF Coach of the Year
UCLA's third-year head coach Adam Wright earned MPSF Coach of the Year honors this season for the first time in his career. Wright became the program's first coach to earn the annual award since Guy Baker in 1995. Wright starred for the Bruins from 1997-2000, playing under former head coach Guy Baker as a freshman and sophomore (1997 and 1998).
Seven UCLA Players Secure All-MPSF Team Accolades
Cullen Hennessy, Matt Rapacz, Josh Samuels and Griffin White each secured second-team All-MPSF acclaim on Tuesday. In addition, Aimone Barabino, Cristiano Mirarchi and Paul Reynolds claimed honorable mention All-MPSF Team accolades. UCLA's seven all-conference selections were more than any other MPSF program this season.
Crosstown Rivalry Extends to NCAA Tournament
UCLA and USC have advanced to the same NCAA Tournament six times (1969, 1973, 1987, 1988, 1996, 2009). Each of those years, the two programs faced each other in tournament play, including three times in the title match (1973, 1996, 2009). UCLA defeated USC in 1996 for the national title, while USC beat UCLA in the title game in 1973 and 2009.
Adam Wright, Chay Lapin Lead USA to Pan Am Gold
Former UCLA standouts Adam Wright and Chay Lapin helped lead the USA Men's National Team to the gold medal at the Pan American Games in October 2011 (Guadalajara, Mexico). The gold medal helped Team USA secure a berth in the 2012 Olympics. Wright starred for the United States at the 2004 Olympics (seventh place) and 2008 Olympics (silver medal).
UCLA Performs at High Level Against No. 1 Opposition
The Bruins have posted a 3-2 record against No. 1-ranked teams this season, as ranked during the week of competition. Most recently, UCLA defeated No. 1-ranked USC (top-seed) at the MPSF Tournament. UCLA moved into the No. 1 ranking on Oct. 19, 2011, for the first time since 2005.
Interesting Note on UCLA's MPSF Championships
UCLA head coach Adam Wright has been a part of the Bruins' four MPSF Tournament titles. Wright served as head coach for UCLA's two most recent titles (2009, 2011). He played for UCLA when the Bruins won the MPSF Tournament championship in 1999 and 2000, leading UCLA to the NCAA Championships in each of those seasons (junior, senior years).