Nov. 29, 2009
LOS ANGELES - The No. 4-seed UCLA men's water polo team earned its first MPSF Tournament title since 2000, defeating No. 3-seed California, 10-7, in the tournament's championship game on Sunday afternoon at USC's McDonald's Swim Stadium. The Bruins (22-6) secured the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2004, when the Bruins downed Stanford in overtime, 10-9, to win their eighth NCAA championship in program history.
"After we lost to Cal during the regular season [Oct. 16], we knew that we had to win the MPSF Tournament if we wanted to keep our season going," head coach Adam Wright said. "The following day, we made a commitment to each other to train as hard as we could and be as strong of a team as we could be. It's refreshing to know that our hard work paid off, but we know that it's not over. We have the biggest weekend ahead of us."
Freshman Josh Samuels led UCLA with three goals, and junior Ben Hohl netted two goals, pushing his 2009 MPSF Tournament total to a team-leading nine goals. UCLA received at least one goal from seven players.
The Bruins' victory over California featured three lead changes and four ties. Following a back-and-forth first half, UCLA pulled ahead for good with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
California claimed a 1-0 lead with 5:21 to play in the opening quarter before UCLA scored twice to assume a 2-1 cushion after the first period. The two teams continued trading goals and entered halftime tied, 3-3.
The Golden Bears (22-6) captured their final lead of the contest with 6:25 to go in the third quarter on an extra-man goal by Zach White, who finished with three goals. Trailing 4-3, UCLA scored two goals (Hohl at 4:27 and Samuels at 3:00) to lead by a 5-4 margin after three periods.
UCLA opened up a four-goal lead, 9-5, late into the fourth quarter. The Bruins received goals from Samuels (7:23) and senior Cole Consani (6:10) to claim a 7-4 cushion. After a goal by California with 5:56 to play, UCLA added two more goals to secure their four-goal advantage. California reduced the Bruins' margin to 9-7 in the final minute before UCLA's Brett Hays added an insurance goal with 14 seconds remaining in the match.
Senior goalkeeper Chay Lapin netted five saves, pushing his three-game tournament total to 27 stops. California's Wil Toppen totaled six saves in the cage.
UCLA will face Loyola Marymount in an NCAA Tournament semifinal match on Saturday, Dec. 5. Game time at Princeton's DeNunzio Pool is 2 p.m. (PT). The winner of that contest advances to Sunday's championship match, to be played at 11 a.m. (PT).
No. 4-seed UCLA vs. No. 3-seed California (MPSF Tournament Championship)
California Goals: Zach White 3, Ivan Rackov, Luka Saponjic, Spencer Warden, Spencer White
California Saves: Wil Toppen 6