BELMONT SHORES, Calif., November 28. DOUBLE-defending NCAA men's water polo champ Stanford blasted U Cal Irvine, 9-5, in an oepning-round game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Tournament at Belmont Plaza this evening.
The MPSF winner receives an automatic berth into next weekend's NCAA Championships at Stanford's Avery Aquatics Center. Having the championships at Avery will mark the first time in the tournament's 35-yer history that it will be held in northern California The Cardinal has won a record 10 national titles since the tournament's inception in 1969, including last year's championship over Bay Area rival California at Loyola Marymount University.
That victory came in Stanford coach John Vargas' inaugural season on The Farm and made him the first coach ever to win a ring his rookie year. He succeeded veteran Card mentor Dante Dettamente, who retired following his record eighth championship in 2001.
The MPSF runner-up usually makes it into the Final Four too, although last year UCLA — which lost to Cal in the championship game — was passed over in favor of the Cardinal, which wound up third.
Stanford, UCLA and USC — seeded No. 1 here and top-ranked nationally — tied for the MPSF regular season title with 7-1 records. But the crown went to the Trojans on the basis of goal diffferential (+1) among the three schools. USC has a 12-match win streak, longest in the country, and won convincingly this evening over U Cal Santa Barbara.
Stanford hss won multiple NCAA championships in succession over the years but has never three-peated. In fact, only Cal, coached by Pete Cutino, who guided the Bears to eight NCAA championships (No. 2 all-time) during his long stay at Berkeley, has three-straight crowns (1973-'75).
The MPSF tourney features the winner of every NCAA men's polo championship inasmuch as no university other than Stanfored, Cal, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine, Irvine and U Cal Sanrta Baabara has ever worn the crown. For that matter, no school other than the above seven has ever made it into the NCAA Finals.
Stanford has won the last two titles, UCLA won in 2000 and USC won its sole championship the year before that.
The MPSF finals are Sunday at 4:00 PM, PST, and the NCAA will announce the Final Four pairings Sunday between 7 and 7:30 PM, PST, via a show on the College Sports TV cable channel.
Stanord 9, UCI 5
Three consecutive goals by Tony Azevedo helped second-seeded Stanford build a lead that seventh-seeded UC Irvine could not overcome as the Anteaters fell 9-5.
A junior, Azevedo is the nation's leading scorer with 74 goals in 23 games. The Sydney Olympic veteran has also led the country in scoring the past two season, is the two-time NCAA Player of the Year and also was MVP at last year's Final Four.
Stanford goalkeeper Chad Taylor recorded a career-high 16 saves, as he held UC Irvine scoreless in both the first and fourth quarters. Azevedo finished with four goals for the Cardinal, while Phil Garcia and Dan Noon each scored twice for UC Irvine.
Stanford moves into semifinal round action on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against UCLA.
In other first round games, the UCLA Bruins scored a 7-5 decision over Pepperdine; California defeated Long Beach State, 11-7; and top-seeded USC downed UC Santa Barbara, 8-5.
UC Irvine 0-3-2-0 = 5
Stanford 2-2-3-2 = 9
Azevedo 4, Crum 1, Hopkins 1, Tyre 1, Varellas 1, Drake 1
Garcia 2, Noon 2, Merlo 1
Taylor (S) 16
Wynne (UCI) 9
3:00 p.m. – Long Beach State vs UC Santa Barbara
4:30 p.m. – Pepperdine vs UC Irvine
6:00 p.m. – California vs USC
7:30 p.m. – Stanford vs UCLA