PALO ALTO, CA., Dec. 2 — ON a day so cold and rainy –more fit for the Apocalypse than water polo — Stanford won one for the Gipper here this afternon and his name was Dante, as in Dettamanti.
The top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Stanford Cardinal (22-1), playing before a racous home crowd of 2,226 fans at their new Avery Aquatic Center (a record turnout for collegiate water polo), jumped to a 3-zip first-quarter lead and were never headed as they breezed to an 8-5 victory over UCLA (16-5), in the finals of the 33rd Men's NCAA Championships.
Third-place went to Loyola-Marymount, host for next year's championships, as it defeated the University of Massachuestts Mintemen, 14-6. Loyola finishes at 15-14; UMass with a 28-7 record.
For retiring Stanford coach Dettamanti (666-208-6), it was a fitting ending to his 25-year-career at The Farm, which included a record-tying eight NCAA titles during that span. Retired Cal coach Pete Cutino also has eight championship rings.
Stanford now has nine NCAA polo titles, two behind Cal's record 11. UCLA, double-defending NCAA champ, has seven.
Ironically, Dettamanti was a UCLA graduate assistant to Bob Horn at the first NCAA polo championships, which went to the Bruins back in 1969. So he begins his coaching career with a title and ends it similarly.
The last time these two teams met with the NCAA title on the line was two years ago with UCLA winning, 6-5. Stanford defeated the Bruins for the crown back in '78, 13-12, in the only other championship match between the two. Stanford also had a two-match finals' losing streak prior to today, having lost in '99 to UCLA and to USC the year before. They didn't make it into last year's title-decider, however, as UCSD lost to the Bruins, 11-2.
Stanford also made it a clean sweep of the Bruins for the season, having beaten their Southern California rival thrice before today's championship match — once in Westwood in September, once in Stockton, CA. in the finals of the NorCal Tournament a month later and then in early November at Avery.
"I couldn't be more pleased and delighted to go out this way," Dettamanti said. "It's really a thrill to win your last game. I'm very satisfied indeed."
Stanford red-shirt freshman Tony Azevedo, the nation's leading scorer and a Sydney Olympian for the United States, was named tournament MVP. He scored a pair of goals today to go with his two against UMass in the
semis, which Stanford won, 8-4. UCLA defeated LMU, 7-5, in the other semi-final.
Another streak that was preserved today by the Cardinal-Bruin finale was that no eastern university has ever made it into the championship match in the history of the tournament.
* * * * *
Azevedo got the scoring going with a penalty goal 5:33 into the first period. A mere 18 seconds later Cardinal Jeff Nesmeth broke free from a defender and rifled a shot home past Bruin All-America goalie Brandon Brooks.
Then Peter Hudnut scored on a 6-on-5 advantage and it was 3-0 Stanford before the first period had ended.
The Cardinal then scored a pair of goals in the second quarter to make it 5-2 at halftime. To open the third period, Card Brian Darrow scored his second goal of the match to give Stanford an insurmountable 6-2 advantage.
However, UCLA didn't fold. Goals by Matt Flesher with 2:45 remaining in the quarter and freshman Brett Ormsby's score over the outstretched arms of goalie Nick Ellis cut the deficit to 6-4, and the momentum began to swing in UCLA's favor.
In the final period Stanford's Australian import, Onno Koelman, took a lob pass from Azevedo at 4:34, broke free from his defender and put the ball in the cage for a 7-4 advantage.
The Bruins cut it to 7-5 with 2:02 left, but Darrow iced the outcome when he blasted a shot home from point-blank range in front of the UCLA net. His
arm was hit while shooting, but the ball dribbled past Brooks and that was that.
With "all-world" Azevedo back for another three years, any chance the Card coach might reconsider his retirement decision?
"No. way. I'm otta here," Dettamanti laughed.
Corona del Mar High coach John Vargas, whose Sea Kings won their second-consecutive CIF Championship a couple of weeks ago and who won an NCAA title while at U Cal Irvine in the early '80s, will succeed Dettamanti as Stanford coach Jan. 1.
Avery also served as host facility for last spring's inaugural NCAA women's polo championships, won by UCLA over Stanford.
USC's McDonald's Olympic Pool will be the site of next May's second NCAA women's tourney.
– Bill Bell
Score by Quarters – Final
1 2 3 4
Stanford 3 2 1 2 8
UCLA 1 1 2 1 5
Stanford: Azevedo, 2; Darrow, 2; Koelman, 2; Nesmeth, 1;
UCLA Tucay, 2; Ormsby, 2; Flesher, 1.
Stanford Nick Ellis, 8.
UCLA Brandon Brooks, 7.
NCAA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP – Tony Azevedo, Stanford
Tony Azevedo, Stanford
Nick Ellis, Stanford
Peter Hudnut, Stanford
Jeff Nesmeth, Stanford
Matt Flesher, UCLA
Brett Ormsby, UCLA
Kevin Witt, Loyola Marymount