From www.usctrojans.com – FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – The second ranked Pepperdine men’s water polo team defeated top-ranked USC, 8-7 in overtime, capturing the 1997 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship on Sunday. It was the first ever NCAA title for the Waves, who finished the season 25-3. The Trojans, who placed second at the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, have now played in six national title matches and have yet to win an NCAA Water Polo Championship. USC finished the year 21-7.
Pepperdine’s Andy Bruininga scored a goal with 44 seconds left in the three-minute overtime period to lift the Waves to the title. USC had tied the match at 7-7 with 1:23 left in the contest on a strong inside move by sophomore James Castle.
The match was a thriller from the beginning. After a scoreless first period, a rarity in water polo, USC’s Marko Pintaric scored first on a goal with 6:16 left in the second period. Pepperdine countered with a goal by senior Brian McAllister. The trojans added another Pintaric goal but the Waves added two more goals to take a 3-2 lead at the midway point.
Pepperdine stretched that lead to two goals as they took a 6-4 lead into the fourth period. With their work cut out for them, the Trojans responded with two clutch goals and a stellar job on the defensive side. The first goal came on a shot by sophomore Luke Daniels with 2:29 left in regulation.
USC was now within a goal at 6-5, but time was running short. Senior Simun Cimerman proved to be the Trojan that would put the match into overtime as he scored with only eight seconds left in regulation on an assist from Pintaric.
Pepperdine struck first in overtime, but once again, Castle tied the match at 7-7. In the end, the Waves proved too be worthy champions with the heroic goal by Bruininga.