May 10, 2009
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The UCLA women's water polo team won its fifth consecutive NCAA championship Sunday afternoon, defeating crosstown rival USC, 5-4, at Maryland's Eppley Recreation Center. Senior Tanya Gandy led the Bruins (25-6) with three goals, and senior goalkeeper Brittany Fullen collected 12 saves.
UCLA never trailed in the contest, securing a 5-3 lead by halftime, before being held scoreless in the second half. The Bruins entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed, while USC was seeded No. 1.
The women's water polo program secured its 11th national championship and seventh NCAA title. The championship marks the 104th NCAA team title, tops in the nation, for the UCLA athletic department.
Sunday's championship match marked the final game for Adam Krikorian as the UCLA head women's water polo coach. Krikorian will assume duties as the U.S. Women's Water Polo National Team coach this month, while staying at UCLA as a member of the men's water polo coaching staff.
"It may be one of the most improbable wins that we've had," said Krikorian. "I knew going into the game that defense was going to be the key. I knew that we were going to have a hard time scoring 11 goals like we did last night, and so I knew we had to play good defense.
"It started with our goalkeeper, Brittany Fullen, who did an amazing job and everyone defensively stepped up their game. We picked a heck of a time to have our best defensive effort of the year. To go an entire half without scoring and still be able to win is incredible."
The Bruins got on the board just 17 seconds into the match, as Gandy converted on a five-meter penalty shot to put UCLA ahead of USC, 1-0. Just 19 seconds later (at the 7:24 mark), Gandy netted her second goal of the day, pushing the Bruins' margin to 2-0.
USC answered on a 6-on-5 opportunity, as Michelle Stein registered her first of two goals on the day with 5:11 remaining in the opening quarter. Stein scored her team-leading second goal with 2:35 to play in the first quarter, tying the game at 2-2.
Belden scored on a 6-on-5 opportunity with 1:14 remaining in the opening period, handing UCLA a 3-2 cushion.
UCLA raced to a 4-2 lead with 6:57 to play in the first half on a goal by Orozco. USC cut the Bruins' advantage to 4-3 at the 3:25 mark in the second quarter on a strike from Alexandra Kiss.
The Bruins collected their final goal of the match on a penalty shot from Gandy with 2:06 to play in the first half, increasing UCLA's lead to 5-3.
USC closed the margin to 5-4 when Forel Davies took advantage of a 6-on-5 chance with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Junior goalkeeper Tumua Anae registered 11 saves in the cage for USC.
Gandy, who earned NCAA Tournament most valuable player honors, helped cement herself as one of the most accomplished players in program history. With three goals against USC on Sunday, Gandy pushed her season total to 79 goals, the highest single-season goal total in program history (eclipsing Coralie Simmons' 74-goal total from 1998).
Belden, Fullen and fellow senior Katie Rulon each captured second-team All-NCAA Tournament honors.
UCLA improved to 20-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament play and has now won its last 17 tournament matches (dating back to 2002).
No. 3-seed UCLA vs. No. 1-seed USC (NCAA Championship)
USC Goals: Michelle Stein 2, Forel Davies, Alexandra Kiss
USC Saves: Tumua Anae 11