UCLA Water Polo
Courtesy of: Joon Baik
LOS ANGELES, California, May 10. SECOND-seeded UCLA advanced to the finals of the NCAA tournament on Saturday evening, defeating the defending champions Southern California 5-3 at the Trojans' Uytensu Aquatics Center. The Bruins improved to 27-4 while the Trojans dropped to 25-4.



UCLA vs. USC

Seeking its 111th NCAA title, the Bruins will face top-seeded Stanford (24-1), which is making its fifth-consecutive appearance in the title game. Stanford defeated No. 4 California 12-8 in the first semifinal. The Bruins are the only team to defeat the Cardinal this season and will face Stanford at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday.

UCLA was led by freshman Mackenzie Barr with two goals. Monica Vavic led the Trojans with two scores.

Sophomore Kodi Hill got the Bruins on the board first with a cross-cage score off a feed from senior Kelly Ronimus at the 5:49 mark. Freshman Mackenzie Barr fired a shot near post to put UCLA up 2-0 with 1:46 left in the first. Monica Vavic fired a low skipper that found the back of the net to trim the lead to 2-1 with :28 to go, ending the scoring in the opening period.

Vavic tied it at 2-2, her second score of the game, on a penalty shot with 6:58 to go in the second quarter. Barr then scored her second of the game on a near post skip shot, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead with 3:32 to go. Sophomore Rachel Fattal scored her first goal against USC this season on a power play strike off a nice feed from Kodi Hill to push the lead to 4-2 with :30 remaining, giving the Bruins a two-goal advantage at the break.

USC scored its second goal on a penalty shot to open the third when Stephania Haralabidis fired a low skipper cross-cage with 5:01 to go to make it 4-3. It was the only score of the period in a defensive battle that saw both teams unable to capitalize on power plays.

In the fourth quarter, junior Emily Donohoe fired a shot from deep to push the Bruins' lead to 5-3 (5:54), ending a 10-minute scoring drought for UCLA. From there, the Bruins' defense stymied USC, holding the Trojans scoreless in the final period.

Sami Hill ended with eight saves, allowing just three goals in the cage for the Bruins. Flora Bolonyai was credited with seven stops in goal for the Trojans.

Stanford vs. California
No. 1 Stanford stands just one win away from its fourth NCAA title and third in four years after a 12-8 victory against No. 4 California in Saturday's National Collegiate Championship semifinal at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Stanford will play No. 2 UCLA in the NCAA championship game at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. It will be the Cardinal's fifth consecutive appearance in the title game and 10th overall.

"We've had a ton of great players year in and year out and the standard and expectations are always high. You get people who are really hungry and have great coaching coming up and want to be a part of Nerd Nation, and that's what has put us in five consecutive championship games," Stanford head coach John Tanner said.

The Cardinal (24-1) claimed its 39th consecutive victory versus California (20-9) as well, a streak that dates back to the 2000 season. Maggie Steffens paced the Cardinal with three goals, two coming on penalty shots, while Kaley Dodson and Annika Dries each scored twice in the run of play. Goalie Gabby Stone made eight saves as part of the Cardinal's defensive effort.

After falling behind by a pair of goals early, Stanford tightened up the defense while the offense came alive over an 8-2 run that spanned 13:05. California's Roser Tarrago netted the first two goals for the Golden Bears, the second coming with 4:09 left in the opening period to put Stanford in a two-goal hole.

The Cardinal defense made a crucial kill of a California power play less than a minute later, and a minute after that Stanford converted a 6-on-5 of its own as Dries punched in the rebound of a Kiley Neushul shot with 2:13 left in the frame. Stanford pulled even with 51 seconds to go as Gurpreet Sohi made a nice move past her defender on the right flank, turning the corner and pump-faking to get California goalie Madeline Trabucco out of position before firing home.

"Games are won over the course of 32 minutes and beyond, but that 5-on-6 stop was a huge deal," Tanner said in regards to the Cardinal's penalty kill while down 2-0.

After Dora Antal put California back in front with 24 seconds to go in the period, Stanford took its first lead of the game with two goals in a span of 32 seconds thanks to Kiley Neushul's penalty shot just 19 seconds into the second period followed by Ashley Grossman's fast-break goal.

Grossman caused problems inside for the California defense all game, as in addition to her goal the Santa Monica native drew two five-meter penalties for the Cardinal. The second of those penalties was converted by Steffens with 1:20 to go in the second period, giving the Cardinal a two-goal lead at 6-4 after the Golden Bears had knotted things up at 4-4.

With 17 seconds to go before the break, Kelsey Suggs balanced her strong two-meter defense with a frozen rope from the left wing that beat Trabucco and gave the Cardinal a 7-4 halftime lead.

Things firmly turned Stanford's way in the first minute of the second half, as the Cardinal was gifted a penalty shot thanks to a brief lapse in concentration by the California defense. California's Tiera Schroeder was called for an exclusion on a Stanford attack, but did not respond to the official's whistle and leave the playing area in sufficient time, resulting in the penalty call. Steffens stepped up and buried her second from five meters and the Cardinal lead was doubled to 8-4.

Despite Terrago's third goal 19 seconds later, the Cardinal extinguished any Golden Bear hope for a comeback as Anna Yelizarova skipped a shot into the cage from the near post 29 seconds after Terrago's goal, and Kaley Dodson fired home with 3:47 to go in the period to make it 10-5. The Stanford lead would eventually get up to 12-6 with three minutes remaining in the contest before California added a pair of late goals.

The above article is a press release submitted to Swimming World. To reach our audience, contact us at newsmaster@swimmingworldmagazine.com.