BERKELEY, CA., Nov. 25. THE clock struck 12, Cinderella's glass slipper turned into a musty old
sneaker and her Ralph Lauren Polo-designer gown
became…well, you know the story.
Stanford's top-seeded and top-ranked Cardinal, on the strength of (who else?) red-shirt freshman Tony Azevedo's four-meter penalty shot with eight seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, rallied to beat home-team favorite Cal's Golden Bears, 7-5, here this afternoon.
The match was played before another overflow, soldout crow at Spieker Aquatics Complex, and was the finals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament.
Stanford, 20-1 and ranked No. 1 nationally, thus earns an automatic bid into next weekend's NCAA Final Four at (where else?) the Cardinal's new multi-megabuck Avery Aquatic Center on the Palo Alto campus, also site of last spring's NCAA women's inaugural Final Four.
Stanford will be joined by double-defending NCAA champ UCLA (15-4), which edged Cal. State Long Beach in double-overtime, 7-6, for third in the MPSF tourney. The Bruins have lost thrice to the Cardinal in 2001, once at Westwood and twice on the road.
The two other Final Four teams include Loyola-Marymount, making its initial appearnace in the 16-year history of the Lions' program; and the University
of Massachusetts Minutemen, who were third two years ago.
Loyola (14-13) earned its entry via a win in last weekend's Western Water Polo Assn. Championship at the Lions' new pool in the Los Angeles suburb of Westchester, also site of next year's NCAA Final Four.
UMass defeated 13th-ranked Queens College, 8-4, last weekend at Princeton to capture the Eastern Championship and gain its automatic bid. The Minutemen, 29-5, are led by seniors Greg Trayor and Mike Foley, the latter a former prep All-America at Foothill High in Orange County, CA. who his team's
leading scorer (48-83,.578, 59 points and 11 assists). He's also featured in this week's Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" section.
Fifth in the MPSF tourney went to USC, which defeated Pepperdine, 10-6; and seventh went to U Cal Santa Barbara, which downed last year's runners-up, U Cal Irvine, 5-4.
The seedings for the NCAA Final Four, which is a two-day, single-elimination affair beginning next Saturday afternoon, are: Stanford vs. UMass, and UCLA vs. Loyola-Marymount, whom the Bruins defeated earlier this season.
No team from outside Califronia has ever made it into the NCAA Finals since the tournament began in 1969, with UCLA winning the inaugural title. Other schools that have won include Stanford, Cal, SC, Pepperdine, Irvine and Santa Barbara.
The subplots for the Final Four are quite intriguing. There's top-ranked Stanford's desire to "win one for the Gipper," or in this case for retiring coach Dante Dettamanti, who with a victory would tie retired Cal coach Pete Cutino for most NCAA Championships (eight).
A victory for the home team would also vault Stanford to No. 1 in polo titles. The Cardinal is now tied with UCLA and Cal (eight each). A UCLA win would give the Bruins an unprecedented three-peat, something only
Cal has accomplished — twice, the most recent in 1990-'92. When UCLA coach Adam Krikorian guided his squad to the title last season he became the first to ever play on and then coach an NCAA Championship squad, having been on a Bruin title-winning team earlier in the last decade.
Can any team stop scoring-machine Azevedo, the tourney's top-scorer (11 goals) and also the nation's leading scorer, averaging more than three goals per match?
And can a team from outside the Golden State make it into the finals, an event that has yet to occur?
* * * * *
Cal's improbale run to the championship fell just short, but the Bears, who defeated Stanford last weekend at Palo Alto, 4-3, putting paid to the former's 17-match undefeated skein, almost pulled off another upset this afternoon.
Stanford never trailed in the match but Cal took the Cardinal down to the final minute, with senior Spencer Dornin scoring with 21 seconds remaining to narrow the margin to 6-5.
Then, attempting to retrieve the ball, Cal coach Peter Asch sent an extra man into the pool with eight seconds left, drawing a four-meter penalty shot. Azevedo promptly whistled la pelota into the net and that as they say was the "old ball game."
Cal goalie Russell Bernstein, who had 10 saves in the Bears' semi-final upset of UCLA Saturday, once again was a pillar of strength in the cage as he blocked 10 of 17 Cardinal shots. But on Azevedo's four-meter penalty toss he didn't have much of a prayer.
As was the case in Stanford's win over Cal. State Long Beach in the other semi, where Azevedo, facing a team coached by his dad Rich, scored four goals to earn high-point honors, this afternoon he led the Cardinal with three tallies, equalling Dornin's total.
Stanford had a tenuous 2-1 halftime advantage, but erupted for three goals in the third period to take a 5-2 lead. Then late in the final quarter Cal came roaring back. Less than three minutes remained when Chris Lathrop cut the margin to 5-3, and Dornin then followed 50 seconds later, leaving Cal down by a single goal.
But as has been the case all season, Azevedo proved unstoppable, getting open and rifling a shot into the corner of the net. That made it 6-4, but Cal wasn't quite dead yet as it scored a quick rejoinder to make it 6-5. Then came Azevedo's penalty shot, solidfying the victory.
Cardinal net-minder Nick Ellis turned in a solid effort with five saves.
1 2 3 4 – Final
Stanford 1 1 3 2 – 7
Cal 1 0 1 3 – 5
Stanford: Azevedo, 3; Farrow, 1; Korlman, 1; Nesmith, 1; Hudnut, 1.
Cal: Dornin, 3; Banhidy, 1; Lathrop, 1.
Stanford: Ellis, 5
Cal: Bernstein, 10
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
The UCLA-Long Beach match came down to a penalty shot at the end of the first overtime period, and Bruin freshman driver Brett Orsmby blasted a shot past 49er goalie Brett Adolph for the win.
Both teams featured balanced offenses with 11 players scoring at least one goal. UCLA's Matt Flesher converted a six-on-five opportunity on the Bruins' first overtime possession to put his team up, 6-5. Long Beach responded on a tip-in by Nathan Allard to tie the score with 17 seconds left.
Then Bruin senior Alfonso Tucay was interfered in the two-meter area by the 49er defense, drewing a penalty at the buzzer and setting the stage for Ormsby's eventual game-winner. Just a freshman, he's the Bruins' leading scorer and a strong defender too.
Long Beach had two opportunities to tie in the second overtime but 49er Scott Miller mised twice in the final minute and that was that.
"We rebounded in the second half and stepped up our intensity in overtime," Bruin coach Krikorian said.
Six different UCLA players scored and All-America goalie Brandon Brooks, a mainstay on the Bruins' last two championship teams, showed he'll be a force to be reckoned with next weekend as he registered eight saves. Senior Jeff Pflueger notched four steals.
Will it be a Cardinal-Bruin "showdown at the ole water hole" next Sunday for the title? One would presume so but then who wudda thunk Colorado would whomp previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Nebraska in football a couple of days ago by 30-some points — most ever against the Huskers?
Perhaps history is on UCLA's side. last spring Stanford's women's team was ranked No. 1 going into the NCAA Final Four, and had gained its berth via a
win over UCLA — the 1999 collegiate champ — in a regional tournament at Honolulu the week before.
Howver, when the splashing stopped the second Sunday in May at Avery, it was the Bruins who were wearing the crown.And as Gen. Buck Turgeson (so ably played by George C. Scott) said in Dr. Strangelove, when asked if a wayward B-52 loaded with nukes had a chance of
sneaking under the Russian radar and reaching its target, replied: "Does he have a chance? Mr. President, OF COURSE HE HAS A CHANCE!"
1 2 3 4 OT(1) OT(2) – Final
CSULB 2 1 1 1 1 0 6
UCLA 2 0 2 1 2 0 7
CSULB Waeezynski, 2; Holloway, 1; Aguilar, 1; Allarde, 1; Miller,
UCLA Orsmby, 2; Pacelli, 1; Flesher, 1; Puffer, 1; Yeilding, 1.
CSULB Adolph, 11
UCLA Brooks, 8
– Bill Bell