Top-seeded UCLA defeated six-time defending champion USC, 9-8, Sunday in the championship game of the NCAA National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship at UC San Diego, with Gordon Marshall scoring the winning goal with 34 seconds to play.
The third-seeded Trojans (24-7) never led. They trailed 7-4 entering the fourth period, but tied the score with four minutes, 29 second to play on two Kostas Genidounias goals sandwiched around a power-play goal by Marc Vonderweidt.
The Bruins (29-3) regained the lead with 3:13 left on Danny McClintick’s fourth goal. USC re-tied the score 23 seconds later on another Vonderweidt goal.
UCLA led 2-0 at the end of the first period and 4-2 at halftime. Its lead grew to 6-3 with 1:05 left in the third period on back-to-back goals by McClintick.
The Trojans cut the lead to 6-4 on Nick Bell’s power-play goal with six seconds left in the period, but the Bruins regained a three-goal lead when Jack Fellner scored with one second left in the period.
UCLA goalkeeper Garrett Danner made nine saves. USC goalkeeper McQuin Baron made six.
The championship was the the Bruins’ first in men’s water polo since 2004 and ninth all-time, tied for third with the Trojans, behind California (13) and Stanford (10). UCLA has won 112 NCAA championships, the most of any school.
“This is by far the most selfless team that I’ve played on,” said McClintick, a junior utility player. “Nobody cares who scores. Nobody cares who gets the credit. Nobody cares about any of the outside stuff. It’s all about what we need to do to be successful. That’s what makes it so special.”
The Bruins “played better than us at the end,” Trojan coach Jovan Vavic said. “We missed our opportunities when we had them. We had a chance to win the game, or maybe score a goal at the end and we didn’t but the ball away.”