LOS ANGELES, April 28. THE fourth time was the charm.
UCLA's defending NCAA women's water polo team, which had lost to last year's runners-up Stanford thrice this season, won their biggest game of the season
today with an 11-7 victory over the Cardinal in the finals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships.
The tournament was played on a gloriously warm and smog-free LA day at SC's McDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium, which also will be the site of the NCAA women's Final Four in two weeks (May 11-12).
Stanford was the tournament's top-seed with the Bruins seeded third.
Two of the other three Final Four schools will be Loyola-Marymount, 18-5 and champions of the Western Water Polo Association; and the University of Michigan, which defeated Hartwick, 7-6 in double-overtime at Princeton today to capture the Eastern Championship and earn the trip west.
Michigan's winning goal was scored by senior Jen Crisman, a talented backstroker who starred for four years on Coach Jim Richardson's Wolverine squad before completing her eligibility last season.
"Oh what a relief it is," said Bruin coach Adam Krikorian, who also guides the men's team. "The girls said all week long they didn't want to back into the tournament and we played our best game of the season today. I was pleased we didn't get flustered after getting down early 2-0. We kept our poise and now we're the champs."
Stanford had beaten the Bruins on consecutive Sundays in February in the finals of two early-season tourneys, and then defeated UCLA in their only MPSF matchup March 10 at Westwood.
The fourth team has not been annoucned by the NCAA yet but it will likely be Stanford. Last year the Cardinal defeated UCLA in the finals of the MPSF Tournament yet both schools received invitations to play in the inaugural Final Four.
Loyola has not played UCLA or Stanford this season but has lost twice to USC, which UCLA defeated, 7-6, to reach the finals. It has, however, defeated Michigan in an early-season encounter.
UCLA improves its record to 21-3 while Stanford drops to 21-2.
Stanford got off to a quick start, taking that 2-zip lead midway through the first quarter and holding it for the balacne of the period. However, UCLA
bounced back on a goal by junior Jessica Lopez — who led all scorers with three — with 5:36 remaining in the second quarter, then went up 3-2 on goals by Thalia Munro and Maureen Flanagan.
But Ellen Estes, who had a pair of goals in the Cardinal's 10-4 semi-final win over Cal. State Long Beach, blasted one past Bruin goalie Jamie Hipp late in the second-quarter to tie the score at 3 at halftime.
Card Brenda Villa scored a goal early in the thrid quarter to make it 4-3, Stanford, but then the Bruins went to work.
Froshwoman Kristyn Pulver scored a goal to make it 4-all, then Stanford went up 5-4 on a goal by Jeanine Jackson. Pulver came back almost immediately to tie the score at 5, and the Bruins took their initial lead of the game when junior Ashley Stachowski netted her shot.
Munro's second goal made it 7-5, UCLA, after three quarters, and UCLA scored four more in the final quarter to ensure the win.
Seniors Jenny Lamb and Kelly Huechan each netted a goal and Lopez added her final two. Stanford scored twice but it wasn't enough.
Hipp performed exemplarly in the cage, making four saves.
If UCLA wins the championship in two weeks, it will give them a three-peat as it won the national collegiate championship two years ago, then won the
inaugural NCAA Chamopionship last season.
The Cardinal has never won the title but has finished runners-up twice, to UCLA last year and to USC three years ago in a game that went five overtimes.
In other games, SC defeated Long Beach, 11-9, for third; Cal defeated San Jose State, 8-6, for fifth; San Diego State topped Hawaii, 9-8, for seventh;
Irvine beat Santa Barbara, 9-7, for ninth; and Northridge defeated Pacific, 8-2, for 11th.
– Bill Bell
BOX SCORE SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 – T
UCLA 0 3 4 4 – 11
Stanford 2 1 3 3 = 7
UCLA Jessica Lopez, 3; Thalia Munro, 2;
Kristyn Pulver, 2; Muareen Flanagan,
Kelly Heuchan, Jenny Lamb, Ashley
Stanford 2, Margie Dingeldein; Jeanine Jackson,
2; Ellen Estes, Maggie Villa.
UCLA Jamie Hipp, 4
Stanford Jackie Frank, 4