For the third time in three years, head coach Adam Krikorian and the UCLA women's water polo team hoisted the NCAA Championship trophy. This time it was on a warm Mother's Day evening in Los Alamitos, California. The Bruins finished the year 28-2, and are now an incredible 90-6 over the last three years. This is Krikorian's fifth NCAA championship as coach of the women's water polo team, and eighth NCAA championship overall.
The Bruins jumped out early, but Stanford used two goals at the beginning of the fourth quarter to make the game extremely close in the final minutes. Emily Feher had an amazing game in the cage with nine crucial saves. UCLA prevented Stanford from gaining any momentum with stifling team defense.
Gabrielle Domanic won the opening sprint to set the tone for the Bruins. Stanford earned an exclusion on its first possession, but the shot was batted down by Domanic. Just over halfway through the first quarter, center forward Brittany Rowe drew an exclusion to create a 6-on-5 opportunity. Courtney Mathewson skipped a shot into the back of the net for the first goal of the game. Two minutes later, Jillian Kraus buried a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal from eight meters out to put the Bruins up 2-0. With thirty seconds left in the quarter, the Cardinal created another 6-on-5 opportunity that Domanic denied once again.
Mathewson won the second quarter sprint to keep the momentum going for the Bruins. Two minutes into the quarter, Kelly Rulon drew an exclusion on Alison Gregorka. Jillian Kraus put in her second goal on a point-blank shot courtesy of Gabrielle Domanic to extend the lead to 3-0. With 1:30 to go before halftime, Lauren Silver squeaked the ball between Emily Feher and the near post to cut the lead to two goals. Unnerved, Feher stuffed a Stanford fastbreak shot just seconds before halftime. The Bruins led at halftime by a score of 3-1.
Domanic won the opening sprint for a second time to open up the second half of play. Courtney Mathewson scored her second goal of the game on a skip shot with 6:16 left in the third. Stanford's third-ranked offense was held scoreless by UCLA's top-ranked defense for another full quarter, and the Bruins had a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the final quarter of the championship game.
Stanford won the sprint, and Lauren Silver scored her second goal on the Cardinal's first possession of the quarter. Silver then scored again on the next possession, cutting the lead to 4-3 on a long lob shot to the far post. Courtney Mathewson answered right back for the Bruins, just as she did after USC evened the score late in yesterday's semifinal match. Mathewson's third goal of the game put UCLA ahead 5-3. The Cardinal drew an ejection with just under six minutes left, and Kira Hillman capitalized on the opportunity. Neither team was able to score in the final five minutes of the hard-fought match. Emily Feher got a hold of the ball on Stanford's last possession to lock up the victory.
Kelly Rulon was named the NCAA Tournament MVP. On Friday, Rulon broke the all-time UCLA scoring record with three goals against Pomona-Pitzer. She scored off of a penalty shot in the semifinals against USC, which was her UCLA-record 237th career goal, and 47th career postseason goal. Because she redshirted in 2004 to participate in the Athens Olympics, Rulon has won a championship all four years she has played collegiate water polo. Kelly Rulon finishes her UCLA career with a staggering 113-10 record. She will go down as the most accomplished women's water polo player in UCLA history.
Joining Rulon on the eight-player NCAA All-Tournament first team are four other Bruins: Senior goalie Emily Feher, Junior driver Courtney Mathewson, Junior driver Jillian Kraus, and Senior center forward Kacy Kunkel. USC's Erika Figge, and Stanford's Christina Hewko and Katie Hansen were also first team selections. There were no Bruins selected to the second team.
Head Coach Adam Krikorian: "What a phenomenal game! It was great for us to get a good start and it was important for us to have the momentum early in order to win the game. We made some big saves and some big blocks that kept the momentum going for us. Stanford is such a great team, they're so explosive and aggressive and they're offensive attack is great. Give them a lot of credit for fighting their way back.
Right now it's a little bit surreal."
Senior Emily Feher "Throughout the tournament, we've never mentioned anything about winning the 100th championship for our school. We didn't allow that to distract us, and I think that was why were so successful. For us, it was just another number. And now that we can think about it, it's pretty awesome."
Junior Courtney Mathewson "It's going to be great to celebrate our accomplishment today, especially winning the 100th for UCLA and winning three in a row, that's pretty amazing!"
Live Game Blog
6:55 pm - Bad pass by Stanford taken by Feher. Bruins will win! Final score: UCLA 5, Stanford 4
6:53 pm - Stanford ejection (Gregorka) with 1:09 to play. Nothing comes out of the power play, and Stanford regains possession. Stanford calls time out with 34 seconds left.
6:49 pm - Feher makes another great stop on a Hewko shot with less than three minutes to play. UCLA turns it over on the next possession, Tanya Gandy is ejected. Silver's shot is stopped by Feher again with just over 1:30 to play. Feher has nine saves in the game. UCLA calls time out, its last of the game.
6:47 pm - Shot by Silver is stuffed by Feher. She launches a pass to Gandy, who is fouled by Steffens. Mathewson's long ball is tipped.
6:45 pm - Steffens gets an exclusion with one second on the shot clock, giving UCLA a fresh clock. With 4:47 left, a time out is called.
6:43 pm - On the power play, Stanford converts with a goal by Hillman with 5:38 left. Score: UCLA 5 - Stanford 4
6:41 pm - Mathewson scores her third goal of the game with 6:24 remaining. Score: UCLA 5 - Stanford 3
6:39 pm - Hansen with a steal, Silver lofts a shot into the upper far corner, and it goes in with 6:42 to play. UCLA calls time out. Score: UCLA 4 - Stanford 3.
6:37 pm - Domanic and Hansen on the sprint. Hansen wins Stanford's first one of the game. Long shot by Lauren Silver goes into the right lower corner with 7:29 to play in the game. Score: UCLA 4 - Stanford 2
6:33 pm - Katie Hansen's shot with one-tenth of a second left in the quarter misses wide left. Third Quarter Score: UCLA 4 - Stanford 1
6:28 pm - Shot by Christina Hewko is stuffed by Emily Feher. A Bruin player lost her cap, but a time out by Stanford with 1:11 allows her to recover it.
6:27 pm - Jillian Kraus with a steal, but Feher's pass is stolen by Hansen. Kraus comes right back with another steal.
6:24 pm - Steal by Mathewson leads to a shot by Domanic that hits the far post. Molly Cahill is ejected several seconds later. On the power play, Stanford's fourth, Hansen's shot is blocked by Feher, and Krauss makes a steal.
6:22 pm - Courtney Mathewson scores her second goal of the match with 6:16 left in the third quarter. UCLA 4 - Stanford 1
6:21 pm - Silver's lob shot hits the bar, Stanford regains possession. Steffens' shot is saved by Feher.
6:20 pm - Domanic and Hansen battle for the sprint, and Domanic wins again. Four quick fouls for Stanford, and a shot attempt by the Bruins goes over the goal.
6:16 pm - Also spotted in the audience at halftime: former UCLA football players Justin London and Kyle Morgan; former Bruin gymnast Kate Richardson; volleyball players Sean O'Malley and Ian Jackson; former UCLA softball head coach Sue Enquist.
6:08 pm - Silver launches a shot from way downtown, but Feher stops it at the buzzer. Halftime Score: UCLA 3 - Stanford 1
6:07 pm - Fast break opportunity for Stanford, and Feher stops a point blank shot.
6:05 pm - Exclusion on Stanford (Heather West). Time out UCLA. They are playing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones over the loudspeaker. That's definitely going to be the case for one of the teams today. Just before they restart action the PA Announcer takes the time to acknowledge UC Irvine volleyball coach (and UCLA alum) John Speraw for winning the NCAA title a week ago.
6:02 pm - With 1:30 left in the quarter, Silver skips one past Feher. UCLA 3 - Stanford 1.
6:01 pm - Long shot by Lauren Silver hits the top of the crossbar but goes straight down and is stopped from crossing the goal by Emily Feher.
6:00 pm - Another exclusion for Stanford (Kira Hillman). Molly Cahill's shot hits the crossbar, but the ball goes back to the Bruins. Shot attempt saved by Meredith McColl.
5:56 pm - Nothing doing for UCLA or Stanford on their first two possessions. Kelly Rulon lofted a shot that hit the crossbar on the Bruins' first shot of the quarter.
5:53 pm - Mathewson and Hansen on the sprint, and Mathewson wins it.
5:50 pm - On the power play, Katie Hansen takes a long shot but it's blocked by Domanic. Brittany Rowe's last-second shot misses wide left. 1st Quarter Score: UCLA 2 - Stanford 0
5:49 pm - Molly Cahill beats a Stanford attacker to a ball near the goal and steals it. Brittany Rowe misses high in front of the net, and Courtney Mathewson gets an exclusion with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Stanford calls time out.
5:47 pm - Stanford's Gregorka gets off a meek shot that falls way short of goal. Jillian Kraus launches a shot from distance that skips past the Stanford keeper. 2-0 UCLA.
5:45 pm - Great defense from Katie Rulon, stealing the ball in front of the goal. Long shot from Rulon is saved by Stanford's keeper.
5:43 pm - Steffens gets an exclusion for Stanford. On the power play, Courtney Mathewson scores the first goal with 3:11 on the clock. 1-0 Bruins
5:41 pm - Domanic's shot towards the far corner misses. Kelly Rulon gets an ejection, and Stanford is on a power play. Jessica Steffens' shot hits the bar, and the Bruins get Rulon back.
5:37 pm - Gabrielle Domanic wins the sprint. Jillian Kraus took the first shot, and it was blocked by the goalie. Kacy Kunkel just got an exclusion, giving Stanford a power play. Lauren Silver's shot misses. Silver gets another shot but it was blocked by Domanic.
5:36 pm - Starters for Stanford: McColl, Hillman, Hansen, Gregorka, Hewko, Steffens, Silver.
5:35 pm - Starters for UCLA: Feher, Domanic, Mathewson, Cahill, Kraus, Rulon, Kunkel
5:33 pm - The two teams are on deck for introductions. UCLA is wearing white caps and blue suits. Stanford is wearing red caps and black suits. The clapping was loud for UCLA introductions, and it's also nice to see the Bruin fans clapping for Stanford players as well.
5:30 pm - Dave Marcus and Michael Sondheimer have just signed on for the internet broadcast, and the pool is being cleared for introductions.
5:28 pm - Someone in the crowd tried to start a Go Stanford chant, but it didn't last long at all. Bruin fans countered with a Bruin chant of their own that easily drowned out the Stanford cheer.
5:22 pm - There's a lot of blue in the stands, much more blue than red. The Bruin faithful has shown up in full force tonight!
5:17 pm - Spotted in the audience: many UCLA athletes from other sports supporting their fellow Bruins; UCLA softball assistant coach Gina Vecchione; UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero and associate directors Ken Weiner and Petina Long; former UCLA head coach and USA women's national team coach Guy Baker; former UCLA basketball player and current Long Beach State head coach Mary Hegarty; UCLA strength, speed and conditioning coaches Doc Kreis and Jill Robinson; former UCLA volleyball assistant coach and player and 2007 National Coach of the Year John Speraw
5:10 pm - The UCLA Athletic Department is aware of the problem with last night's internet broadcast. There was a technical issue with our CSTV, our internet provider, and the company they use to stream audio and video. By the time they were able to track the issue, the match was over. We have been assured that will not occur tonight, and we apologize for any inconvenience to our fans because of this issue.
5:04 pm - We're live poolside here in Los Alamitos as the UCLA women's water polo team gets ready to play Stanford for the NCAA Championship. If UCLA wins today, it will be the women's water polo team's third consecutive title and ninth national title. It would also be the 100th NCAA Championship for UCLA.