LOS ANGELES November 15. IT wasn't easy and it wasn't purty but UCLA won its second consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men's water polo championship here yesterday in their season finale with a tough 7-6 win over U Cal Irvine.
The win was the top-ranked Bruins' 16th-straight victory — their longest such streak in 16 years — and gave them their first outright MPSF Championship since 1999, when they not only won the conference crown but the NCAA championship as well. (UCLA tied with SC last season and the Trojans went on to win the national title.)
With their 7-6 come-from-behind victory against the fifth-ranked Anteaters at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center pool before an overflow crowd, No. 1 UCLA (21-2, 8-0) completed the regular season schedule with their 16th consecutive victory and best regular-season winning percentage (.913) since 1972. The victory also assures UCLA of the No. 1 seed heading into the conference tournament, which begins on November 26 at Stanford, which a week later will serve as host institution for the NCAA Final Four.
(The Bruins' 1972 team, incidentally, won NCAAs.)
The MPSF winner receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships while the other three spots will be determined by the NCAA Championship water polo committee. Usually — but not always — the MPSF runner-up team is awarded a playoff berth too.
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UCLA trailed early as the Anteaters (14-11, 4-4) jumped out to a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period. Senior two-meter man Dan Noon struck first for UC Irvine as he sent a shot past UCLA goalkeeper Joe Axelrad at 4:33 in the first. He wasted no time tallying his second goal of the day and giving the Anteaters a two-point advantage as he sent another shot to the back of the net at 3:27. The Bruins got on the board when sophomore Logan Powell skipped a shot by UCI goalkeeper Joe Wynne at 2:58. The teams exchanged goals to finish the period and headed into the second with UC Irvine ahead 3-2.
In the second quarter, the Bruin defense awoke as Axelrad allowed just a single goal to senior driver Rick Merlo to open the period. UCLA stayed within one when Michael March sent an off-balance shot into the back of the net for a 4-3 score.
The Bruins finally tied the match after halftime as Bruin senior Brett Ormsby scored his second of three goals at 3:01 in the third. Then fellow senior Josh Hewko scored with a shot from two-meters at 2:06 to give UCLA its first lead of the match, 6-5. Ormsby would add another goal to make the score 7-5 before UC Irvine's Chris Peters netted a goal with :03 remaining in the match to finalize the score at 7-6.
Ormsby — who was instrumental in leading the Bruins to a win over USC the previous day at SC with four straight second-half goals — led all scorers with his hat trick while Noon and Merlo headed UC Irvine's attack with two goals apiece.
Axelrad tallied 10 saves on the day while Wynne picked up six.
Six Bruin seniors (Axelrad, Peter Belden, Albert Garcia, Hewko, Ormsby and Ted Peck) were honored prior to the game as part of Senior Day 2004.
Teams 1 2 3 4 T
UCI 3 1 1 1 — 6
UCLA 2 1 3 1 — 7
UC Irvine Goals:
Dan Noon 2, Rick Merlo 2, Tim Hutten, Chris Peters
Brett Ormsby 3, Logan Powell, Michael March, Albert Garcia, Josh Hewko
UC Irvine Saves: Joe Wynne 6
UCLA Saves: Joseph Axelrad 10
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STANFORD, Calif., Nov. 14. SECOND-ranked Stanford (19-3, 7-1 MPSF) hosted fourth-ranked California this Saturday afternoon (Nov. 13) in a league match at the Avery Aquatic Center and posted a 12-7 victory over the Golden Bears. Senior driver Tony Azevedo scored six goals to help the Cardinal secure a win in its final home match of the year.
Stanford put the first points on the board today, with junior Thomas Hopkins (Honolulu, Hawaii) recording a pair of goals in the first two and a half minutes, but Cal cut the lead in half with a goal from John Mann. The Cardinal kept the momentum, though, and Azevedo added two more goals, extending the Cardinal lead to 4-1.
Stanford retained the lead for the remainder of the match and extended the margin to 12-5 before Cal scored a pair of goals in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Junior Chad Taylor (Alamo, Calif.) finished the day with nine saves, five of which came in the third quarter. Sophomore Beau Stockstill (Corono del Mar, Calif.) replaced Taylor in the net in the fourth quarter and picked up two saves in the final minute.
In a week, the two squads will match up again, as Cal hosts Stanford in the Big Splash next Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in Berkeley.
California (17-7, 2-4 MPSF) 2 1 1 2 = 7
Stanford (19-3, 7-1 MPSF) 5 2 2 3 = 12
Mann 2, Vasiljevic 2, Jones 1, Kinsel 1, Scharf 1
Azevedo 6, Hopkins 3, Drake 1, Crum 1, Varellas 1
Goalie Saves: Taylor (S) 9, Stockstill (S) 2; Bennet (C) 5