LOS ANGELES, May 12. A bridesmaid never again.
The women of Leland Stanford Jr. University won their first national collegiate water polo championship here today at the McDonald's Olympic Pool on the campus of USC, by virtue of a solid 8-4 thrashing of defending NCAA champ UCLA.
Stanford finishes 23-2 for the season, UCLA 22-4.
Similar to the Bruins' 112 semi-final romp over Loyola-Marymount Saturday, Stanford got a quick 2-zip lead on the Bruins this afternoon and were never headed.
The Cardinal led 3-0 at the end of the first period, 4-1 at halftime and the outcome was never in doubt thereafter. More than 1000 fans attended the
Championship on a gloriously warm afternoon where the only thing hotter than the weather was Stanford's poloists.
The victory gave the Cardinal a sweep of the NCAA Division 1 water polo titles this academic year, as retired Coach Dante Dettamante's men's team defeated UCLA last December in his swansong at The Farm. UCLA was the defending men's champ too, so Stanford certainly had the Bruins' number.
In the third-place match, Loyola-Marymount defeated Michigan, 6-4.
Stanford lost the title to UCLA at home last year, 5-4, and also lost the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title to the Bruins here two weeks ago,
But the Cardinal had defeated the Bruins thrice in regular-season play and until just the last two weeks, were ranked No. 1 nationally. Perhaps the tournament's match makers had the "inside track" as Stanford was seeded No. 1 going in, despite their loss to the Bruins in the MPSF Finals, and that's precisely how the Championship finished.
Stanford goalie Jackie Frank, who was named Most Valuable Player and who had a whopping 12 saves to 4 for UCLA goalie Jamie Hipp, said: "We play great
defense no matter who's in the goal, a horrible goalie or the best goalie in the world. Our defense is solid and played great. They made five or six field blocks on 5-on-6s so I didn't have to make a play."
The title is Stanford's first since the inception of women's water polo in 1995. The Cardinal lost to the Bruins last year and also lost to USC in four overtimes in '99 in the finals. Today, however, it was all Big Red (er, Cardinal).
Said Stanford's Margie Dingeldein, named to the all-tournament second team: "This is the best way I could imagine to finish my Stanford career. The last three years we had what I felt was the best team but didn't come through. This is for all of the seniors from the past who have graduated."
Bruin coach Adam Krikorian, still the only coach to win both men's and women's NCAA polo titles, said:
"Obviously, I'm disappointed. "But I'm very proud of our girls. After getting down 3-0 they never gave up. They continued to play hard and with high intensity. Hats off to Stanford, they did a great job."
UCLA sophomore Natalie Golda was the game's high-scorer with three goals and was named to the all-tournament team. Teammate Kelly Heuchan, another
first-team all-tourney selectee, was the other Bruin able to get the ball past Card goalie Frank.
UCLA was hurt by its inability to capitalize on 6-on-5s. The Bruins were 1-10 in those situations and Krikorian added that "you can't go 1-for-10 on 6-on-5s and expect to win. Their first three goals went in and that amped them up. It was a big obstacle when our first three goals didn't get in the cage.
"We wanted to be aggressive and we knew they'd drop a player and play a zone and use Frank to make saves. But our inability to convert those 6-on-5s killed us and you can't expect to win under those circumstances against a great team like Stanford. They put away their shots and we didn't. That's the bottom line."
After early Cardinal goals by Wendy Watkins and Ellen Estes, Julie Gardner converted a turnover into a score with 2:52 remaining in the first and UCLA's chances were rapidly evaporating.
Stanford scored a goal in the next period to make it 4-1 at the half and it was clear the Cardinal was in the driver's seat.
Golda's goal made it 4-2 early in the third quarter and then theBruins had a great opportunity to make it 4-3 late in the period when Robin Beauregard's shot came within inches of floating into the goal. It didn't and the Bruins were rapidly becoming "in ruins."
Stanford quickly transitioned back down the pool and scored seconds alter on a Kathy Luber shot with 1:01 remaining in the period and the match was — in a word — history.
Frank held the Bruins in check throughout the afternoon and her 12 saves were instrumental in her getting the MVP award, not to mention allowing the
Bruins to score just once on their 10 6-on-5s. Teammates Julie Gardner and Estes were high scorers with two goals each.
"We had a great feeling from the beginning," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "We came out and made plays. We dominated the game for the first quarter and-a-half, but we then continued to make plays. We were anchored by Jackie, who was the key to the win."
Stanford left the pool at halftime of the UCLA-Loyola game yesterday with the Bruins up, 6-0. When asked why, Tanner replied simply: "We've seen enough."
Indeed they had.
Loyola-Marymount, located in the Westchester section of Los Angeles, will host the 2002 NCAA D1 men's tournament the first weekend in December.
— Bill Bell
CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH 1 2 3 4 – T
No. 1 Stanford (23-2) 3 1 1 3 – 8
No. 2 UCLA (22-4) 0 1 1 2 – 4
Stanford goals: Julie Gardner, 2; Ellen Estes, 2; Brenda Villa,
Jeanine Jackson, Kelly Luber, Wendy Watkins.
UCLA goals: Natalie Golda, 3; Kelly Heuchan.
Stanford saves: Jackie Frank, 12.
UCLA saves: Jamie Hipp, 4.
CONSOLATION MATCH 1 2 3 4 – T
No. 3 Loyola-Marymount 1 3 3 1 – 6
No. 4 Michigan 1 1 1 1 – 4
Loyola-Marymount goals: Lucy Windes, 4; Teresa Gold, 2.
Michigan goals: Jen Crisman, 2; Kasey Kerney, Mandi