PALO ALTO, CA., Dec. 1 — THUS was it ever so.
Top-ranked Stanford and No. 2-ranked UCLA, the double-defending NCAA Champion, will meet for an unprecedented fourth time this season only this
time the stakes will be higher than they've ever been — the NCAA title going to the winner.
UMass and Loyola will play for third in the game preceding the finals.
Coach Dante Dettamante's Cardinal (21-1), brushed aside eastern representative University of Massachusetts, 8-4, in one semi-final this afternoon at their new Avery Aquatic Center, while UCLA (16-4) defeated West Los Angeles neighbor Loyola-Marymount, 7-5, in the other semi.
UCLA blew past LMU, champions of the Westeren Water Polo Assn., 8-4 during the regular season.
The Bruins and Cardinal have met thrice this fall, once in Westwood in September, a month later at Stockton in the finals of the NorCal Tournament, and finally at Palo Alto in late October. The outcome was always the same too with Stanford winning handily.
Will the fourth time be the charm for UCLA?
"We're sure getting tired of losing to these guys," UCLA coach Adam Krikorian said after the win over Loyola. "Stanford's the best team in the country and it'll take our very best effort Sunday to win.
"There is going to be a tremendous amount of energy. It's going to be very electrifying and there's going to be a tremendous amount of nerves to go along with that energy and that electrifying feeling.
"Stanford's undoubtedly the best team in the country, it's not even close, but we've come this far and I think it'll be a great game. They [Stanford] also have such a deep team that we need to make it tough and hang with them early to have a chance," Krikorian added.
Stanford's Dettamante echoed similar sentiments.
"All our matches [with UCLA] have been close and I think tomorrow's will follow the same pattern. They have some good offense weapons and play tough defense so we'll have our work cut out."
UCLA and Stanford have met twice for the title in the tournament's 32-year history, with the Cardinal winning 13-12 in 1976, then losiung 6-5 two years ago.
Should Stanford prevail, it will give the Palo Alto school nine NCAA Championships — two behind all-time leader Cal Berkeley's 11. A win would also mean that retiring Cardinal coach Dante Dettamante will go out a winner after a 25-year career on The Farm, and will give him his eighth ring, equaling the number won by retired Cal coach Pete Cutino.
Were UCLA to win, it would give the Bruins eight titles in the 32-year history of the championship. Their "three-peat" would equal's Cal skein from 1990-'92. However, the Bears also had a three in-a-row streak in the late '70s — the only team to do so.
Finally, a UCLA win would give them a sweep of both men's and women's polo titles for the year. The Bruin women won the inaugural NCAA Championship last May here at Avery, defeating Stanford after having lost the regionals a week earlier to the Cardinal in Hawaii.
UMass' loss continues a rather dubious streak for non-California schools too. Not only has no university outside the Golden State ever won the title, none has ever reached the final game either!
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It was "Stanford weather" in the Cardinal-Minuteman match, as a cold, heavy rain coupled with a driving wind made conditions "unbearable" for both teams and the packed crowd of bundled-up fans.
Stanford's Jeff Nesmeth was the Cardinal "big gun," scoring three goals and playing solid defense while teammate Tony Azevedo added a pair of scores to pace the Cardinal attack.
Nesmeth opened the scoring at 4:31 of the first quarter with a soft lob over the outstretched arms of UMass goalie J.R. VanderWall and the Cardinal was
never headed thereafter.
Stanford built a 4-2 halftime lead on Nesmeth's second goal and Aussie import Onno Koelman's line drive shot.
The Minutemen cut the margin to 4-3 early in the third period when senior Adam Moore scored, but Stanford responded with a pair of goals in the quarter's final two minutes and was ahead 6-3 going into the final stanza.
Azevedo,the nation's leading scorer and a Sydney Olympic veteran, came to life in the final, scoring both of Stanford's goals to ensure the win. Card
goalie Nick Ellis contributed six saves and VanderWall had 15 in a stellar — albeit losing effort.
Score by Periods – Total
1 2 3 4
Stanford 3 1 2 2 – 8
Massachusetts 2 0 1 1 – 4
Goals: Stanford – Nesmeth, 3; Azevedo, 2; Guyman, Hudnut, Koelman.
UMass. – Foley, Houck, Lutz, Moore.
Saves: Stanford – Ellis, 6.
UMass. – VanderWall, 15.
UCLA rode the strong right arm of freshman driver Brett Ormsby to victory, as the Bruins' leading scorer tallied three goals in the win over LMU's Lions.
Loyola took an early lead when freshman Steve Lipinski, a graduate of nearby St. Francis High here in Palo Alto, scored on Bruin All-America goalie
Brandon Brooks — who has two rings in his collegiate career.
But it's not nice to make UCLA made. The double-defending NCAA Champs went on a 5-zip scoring rampage that spelled gloom and doom for LMU, making its
initial appearance in the championships in the 16-year-history of their program.
Orsmby hit the mark twice in the first half along with three other Bruins, seniors Jeff Pflueger, Alfonso Tucay and junior Matt Flesher.
UCLA was up 5-1 at halftime and seemingly had the situation well under control.
A penalty shot by Loyola's Kevin Wist was answered by Garcia's second goal and UCLA led 6-2 early in the third quarter. Ormsby completed his hat trick two minutes into the fourth quarter and the Bruins led, 7-2.
Loyola staged a rally with three goals in a two-minute span to cut the deficit to 7-5 with 2:30 remaiining, but then Brooks' steal on an attempted breakaway by Wist quashed the comeback.
The rain abated for most of this game but is expected back in full force for Sunday's finals.
"After losing the senior class we had the last two years, we're extremely excited to be back here playing for a national championship," Krikorian said. "Loyola made it exciting there at the end but Brooksie's steal was the capper."
UCLA is indeed fortunate to be playing for the championship as it lost in the semis of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tourney last weekend at
Berkeley to Cal, which went on to lose to Stanford in the finals. UCLA's double-overtime win over Cal State Long Beach, good for third in the MPSF playoff, was good enough to secure the at-large bid.
Score by Periods – Total
1 2 3 4
UCLA 2 3 1 1 – 7
Loyola 1 0 1 3 – 5
UCLA Orsmby, 3; Pflueger, 2; Flesher, Garcia.
Loyola Lininski, 2; Witt, 2; Barr.
UCLA Brooks, 6.
Loloya Paulsen, 8.