BERKELEY, CA., Nov. 23. TOP-ranked Stanford and second-seeded UCLA advanced to the semi-finals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation water polo tournment here today in first-round action.
However, sixth-seeded and host Cal's Golden Bears upset third-seeded USC, 5-3, to put paid to the Trojans' hopes of repeating their 1998 NCAA
The tournament is underway at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex and runs through Sunday, and Friday's sellout crowd was raucus and quite vocal in its support of the home team — and its disdain for that anonymous cross-bay rival and Cal's southern cousin too!
The winner gains an automatic berth into next weekend's NCAA Final Four at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center. The other two guaranteed spots in the finals have gone to Loyola-Marymount, making its first NCAA tourney appearance in the 16-year history of the Lions' program; and the University of Massachusetts' Minuteman, which will be the eastern representative.
One spot thus remains unfilled and it may go to this tournament's second-place finisher.
The other team advancing to this afternoon's semis is Cal. State Long Beach, an 8-6 winner over third-seeded Pepperdine. The Long Beach 49ers are coached by Rich Azevedo, father of Stanford redshirt freshman All-America Tony, considered by many as America's top collegiate player and a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team.
Stanford opened its quest for a record eighth NCAA Championship via an 8-4 rout of U Cal Irvine. UCLA, double-defending national collegiate champ and hoping for an unprecedented three-peat, eked past U Cal Santa Barbara, 3-1. It was UCLA's lowest scoring output of the season.
Cal is on something of a roll, having thwarted Stanford's quest for an undefeated season with a 4-3 win over the Cardinal last Saturday in the Big Splash at Stanford. The win stopped Stanford's 17-match winning streak and also gave the Bears their third-consecutive Steve Heaston Trophy, named for the former Cal coach (1989-98) who led the Bears to three NCAA Championships and passed away in 1999.
In the Stanford-Irvine match, Azevado scored three goals and goalie Nick Ellis collected eight saves ast he Cardinal improved to 18-1. The match was tied, 2-2, early in the second quarter when Stanford went on a
6-zip run and the Anteaters were never in contention thereafter.
UCLA (14-3) played strong defense against Santa Barbara's Gauchos to reach the semis, and will now take on Cal this afternoon. The Bruins' Albert Garcia, a former teammate of Azevedo's at Long Beach Wilson High (which won the CIF Division 1 polo title a week ago), opened the scoring just 90 seconds into the match when he rifled home a shot past UCSB goalie Trevor Spence.
The play was set up by a long outlet pass from All-America goalie Brandon Brooks, who has been in the cage on the last two Bruin championship squads and is regarded as perhaps UCLA's finest goalie ever.
The Bruins then went up 2-zip when Bruin leading scorer Brett Ormsby, a talented freshman, found the goal later in ther period. Santa Barbara scored with an extra-man goal from Tom Coughlan to make it 2-1, but UCLA doubled its advantage (3-1) on senior Jeff Pflueger's power-play goal late in the first half.
In the second half, the Bruin defense was devastating, registering a season-high 16 steals and five field saves.
"Neither team could take advantage of its opportunities, but our defensive effort was the key for everything," UCLA coach Adam Krikorian said.
Brooks collected seven saves for the Bruins while the Gauchos' Spence had eight.
Pepperdine vs. Irvine
USC vs. UC Santa Barbara
Long Beach State vs. Stanford
Cal vs. UCLA
(Note: the winners of the first two games today will play Sunday for fifth-place. The losers of today's other two matches will play for third-place.)
– Bill Bell