BERKELEY, CA., NOV. 25. IT'LL be the Big Splash Redux this afternoon at Spieker Aquatics Complex on the campus of the University of California here.
For the second time in eight days, Stanford and Cal will battle in the pool for water polo supremacy, only this time the stakes will be considerably higher than last week at Stanford.
Cal's Golden Bears (15-6), cheered on by an overflow crowd late yesterday afternoon in a driving rain storm, upset double-defending NCAA Champ UCLA, 9-7, advancing to this afternoon's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title match against longtime Bay Area rival Stanford.
The top-ranked Cardinal defeated Cal. State Long Beach, 7-4, in the other semi-final match to run its record to 19-1. Stanford's only loss was a 4-3
squeaker to Cal at home — Avery Aquatic Center — site of next weekend's NCAA Final Four.
The MPSF champ gains an automatic berth into the Final Four, which will also include Loyola-Marymount and the University of Massachusetts. The fourth spot is up for grabs, although UCLA is hopeful that if it defeats Long Beach in the third-place match it will get the nod.
A victory by Cal would of course automatically put them on the road to Palo Alto next weekend but even if they lose they still have a shot at making the tourney. Seedings will be announced by the NCAA after today's final match.
Stanford wants to make retiring Coach Dante Dettamanti's final season a championship one, to accompany the seven other NCAA crowns he's won over the past 28 years at the helm of the Cardinal. His squad last won the NCAA Championship by defeating USC twice in succession in 1993-94.
Cal is the only team to ever three-peat, having won a pair of "triple crowns" in '73-'75 under Coach Pete Cutino and again in '90-'92, guided by Coach Steve Heason — Cal's last NCAA Championships. If UCLA wins and gains a tourney berth, it will have a chance to emulate the Bears' feat, although the Bruins incurred three of their four losses to Stanford this season.
In the two other matches yesterday, Pepperdine defeated U Cal Irvine, 14-9, and SC beat Santa Barbara, 12-6. The two winenrs will play today for
fifth-place while the two losers will compete for seventh.
* * * * *
In the UCLA-Cal match, Cal led for all but 15 seconds of the contest. However, the seven goals it allowed was more than it had given up in its last two wins — three each against Stanford and the Trojans. The nine
goals Cal scored also matched its output from the last two games.
"The key to the game was still the defense," Cal coach Peter Asch said. "They triggered our fast breaks. On defense, you play more as a team. [The players] build confidence and feel good about themselves on defense."
Cal's largest lead came after a streak in which the Bears scored four unanswered goals in a 3:33 span late in the match to take a 9-5 lead with 4:14 remaining. This followed a hard-fought first-half which the Bears led, 4-3.
To start the third quarter the Bruins came blazing, as junior Matt Flesher's second goal of the game knotted the count at 4-4, then Bruin leading-scorer Brett Ormsby converted a penalty shot to give UCLA a 5-4
advantage with 2:03 left in the period.
But the Bears, responding to the vociferous crowd that cheered its every move, responded with two quick goals to take a 6-5 lead, then added another pair to make it 8-5.
Bruin senior Alfonso Tucay scored on consecutive possessions to make it 8-7. UCLA held the ball with a minute remaining. However, Cal's defense stiffened
and the Bears' Attila Banhidy's four-meter penalty shot with eight seconds cemented the victory.
Banhidy, who scored a pair of goals in Cal's upset of third-ranked SC in the quarter finals, had four goals today to lead all scorers. Teammate Joe Keiser rifled in three past UCLA goalie Brandon Brooks, who has been a key player on the Bruins' last two championship teams.
Cal got great play from goalie Russell Bernstein, who registered his third-consecutive complete game and blocked nine Bruin shots. Brooks also had a strong game, saving eight. Flesher, Ormsby and Tiucay each had a pair of goals for the visitors.
Box Score 1 2 3 4 – Final
UCLA 1 2 2 2 – 7
Cal 2 2 2 3 – 9
UCLA: Flesher, 2; Orsmby, 2; Tucay, 2; Garcia, 1.
Cal: Banhidy, 4; Kaiser, 3; Dornin, 1; West, 1.
UCLA: Brooks, 8.
Cal: Bernstein, 9.
* * * * *
Stanford trailed Cal. State Long Beach for the first nine and-a-half minutes of the match and didn't take its first lead until nearly the end of the first half.
But the clock struck 12 and Cinderalla's dream of reachingt the championship game came crashing down as the Cardinal stormed back to defeate the upstart
Before the match there was speculation that Long Beach coach Rich Azevedo, father of Stanford star Tony, would "ground" his son and not let him in the pool.
Azevado the younger, who has averaged 3.1 goals per game this season to lead the nation in scoring, matched the scoring output of the entire 49er team to
help guide the Cardinal to its win.
Despite long odds, the 49ers were down by only a goal as the fourth period began. Then Azevedo took over and the 49ers were unable to contain his prolific offensive moves as he rifled in a pair of goals to cement the victory.
Cardinal temmmate Peter Hudnut contributed a pair of scores and goalie Nick Ellis — a solid defender throughout the season — came away with eight
"They were just too good, too explosive," Coach Azevedo said. "I tried to recruit Tony for Long Beach but he was determined to go to Stanford and I can't blame him for that."
Asked if he was rooting for either Stanford or Cal in the finals, he responded diplomatically: "I hope it ends up a tie."
Box Score 1 2 3 4 – Final
Stanford 0 3 1 3 – 7
CSULB 1 0 2 1 – 4
Stanford: Azevedo, 4; Hudnut, 2; Kolman, 1.
CSULB: Kewll, 1; Allard, 1; Millsa, 1; Holloway, 1.
Stanford: Ellis, 8.
CSULB: Randolph, 9.
— Bill Bell