Crosstown rivals UCLA and USC will play for the NCAA National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship today at UC San Diego.
The six-time defending champion Trojans upset second-seeded Stanford, 12-11, in sudden death overtime in Saturday’s second semifinal, while top-seeded UCLA defeated fourth-seeded Tritons 15-6 to in the opening semifinal at a sold-out Canyonview Aquatic Center.
The Trojans are 1-3 against the Bruins this season, including a 10-5 loss in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament third-place game Nov. 23.
The game is set to begin at 3:10 p.m. and will be streamed live on NCAA.com.
Kostas Genidounias scored with five seconds left in sudden death overtime to give third-seeded USC (24-6) the victory over the Cardinal (25-4).
In a game that was tied 10 times, Genidounias scored the the third of his team-high four goals with 14 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
Trojan driver Nick Bell opened the scoring in overtime, but Stanford’s Alex Bowen re-tied the score with 14 seconds left in the first overtime.
Bowen’s fourth goal gave the Cardinal an 11-10 lead with 36 seconds left in the second overtime, but Marc Vonderweidt scored with 10 seconds remaining off Genidounias’ assist to force sudden death.
Stanford led 3-1 at the end of the first quarter and 7-5 at halftime.
The score was tied 8-8 entering the fourth period.
Bell, Rex Butler, Mihajlo Milicevic and Vonderweidt each scored twice for the Trojans. Bret Bonanni scored three goals for the Cardinal and B.J. Churnside, Connor Cleary, Nick Hoversten and Connor Stapleton one each.
Trojan freshman goalkeeper McQuin Baron made 18 saves, giving him a school record 282 for the season, breaking the previous record of 268 set by Andrew Tinseth in 1993. Drew Holland made 13 for Stanford.
“This was one of those classic games,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “Two great teams played very hard water polo from beginning to end. It was not the greatest game to coach, but it was a great game to watch.”
The Bruins (28-3) never trailed. Playing before a capacity crowd of 1,496 at the Canyonview Aquatic Center, UCLA won the opening sprint, with Paul Reynolds scoring 20 seconds into the game.
The fourth-seeded Tritons (16-10) tied the score 22 seconds later on Joe Dietrich’s goal. Bruin utility player Cristiano Mirarchi scored the final goal of the period on a power-play with 4:04 left.
Ryder Roberts scored twice in the final 34 seconds of the first half to give UCLA an 8-3 halftime lead. Anthony Daboub, Mirarchi, Chancellor Ramirez and Gordon Marshall also scored for the Bruins while Josh Stiling and Tiki Toplak scored for UCSD.
Marshall, Mirarchi, Matt Farmer and Daniel Lenhart scored in the third period for UCLA, increasing its lead to 12-4. David Higginson scored the Tritons’ lone third-period goal.
Lenhart, Reynolds, and Jack Fellner scored in the fourth period for the Bruins, while Dietrich and Matt Michalko scored for UCSD.
Bruin goalkeeper Garrett Danner made 13 saves and Stephen White one.
Triton goalkeeper Cameron Ravanbach made eight saves.
“We knew they would come out strong in the beginning,” Danner said. “They started firing away right for the start. I was able to step up and get my hands on a few. Our defense was awesome the whole game.”
UCLA is 58-2 against UCSD, including 13-5 and 17-5 victories earlier this season. The Bruins have won their last 11 games against the Tritons dating back to 2006.