STANFORD, December 5. THEY were ranked No. 1 nationally from mid-September until last week, when a little "hiccup" dropped them down a notch.
But UCLA's resilient Bruins, overcoming weather conditions (cold, rain and wind) more suited for ducks and a hostile crowd jeering their every move, let nothing stand in their way as sophomore Logan Powell scored the game-winning goal with 13 seconds remaining in the second overtime period — powering them to a thrilling, 10-9 victory over Stanford this afternoon at the Cardinal's Avery Aquatic Center to win the 36th NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships.
Avery holds about 2500 fans. Today's official attendance was a record 3044. The stands were a sea of red-and-white but the scoreboard told the story: UCLA 10, Stanford 9.
For the victorious Bruins (25-3), it is their eighth NCAA title polo and the 95th for the UCLA athletic program — the most by any university in any division. UCLA head coach Adam Krikorian, whose team lost its No. 1 seeding a week ago today here by losing to Stanford (23-5) in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation finals, is now tied with U Cal Irvine's Ted Newland for NCAA water polo titles won by an active head coach with three. Stanford's Dante Dettamanti, who retired following the Cardinal's 2001 championship at the Bruins' expense, leads all coaches with nine titles; and the Cardinal has 10 championships overall, one behind Cal's record 11.
"After last week's loss and our tough match yesterday [in the semis, where the Bruins beat Princeton, 7-5, in overtime] there were a lot of doubters going into today's game. But our kids believed, I believed and that's all that mattered," Krikorian said afterwards.
The Bruins last won NCAAs four years ago when they scored their second-consecutive crown. Stanford won the following two seasons and USC won here last year, ironically defeating the Cardinal in double-overtime too.
In the consolation finals, Loyola-Marymount edged Princeton, 6-5.
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Stanford took an early edge when Greg Crum converted a Tony Azevedo pass past Bruin goalkeeper Joseph Axelrad for a 1-0 lead. UCLA would answer less than a minute later when senior attacker Brett Ormsby dished off to fellow senior attacker Albert Garcia, who sent one past Cardinal keeper Chad Taylor. The Cardinal reclaimed the lead at 4:15 in the first on an extra-man goal by San Tyre and ran their lead to 3-1 with Thomas Hoplins' goal from just inside two meters at 3:20. But UCLA's Garcia netted his second goal at 1:21 to bring the Bruins to within one.
Then, at the five minute mark in the second period, the Bruins re-knotted the match when Peter Belden pushed in a shot just beyond the goal line after Ted Peck's shot was deflected by Taylor. Stanford regained the lead again with Peter Varellas' extra-man goal at 4:17. UCLA would then go on to score two unanswered goals to bring a 5-4 lead into halftime. UCLA's fourth goal came as Grant Zider scored on a lob pass from Ormsby just outside two-meters. Powell gave the Bruins their first lead of the match when his shot, assisted by Josh Hewko, deflected off Stanford's Taylor and into the cage.
The teams exchanged single goals in the third, but UCLA received a break when, early in the period after a Bruin defensive stop, Peck, looking to pass back to Axelrad for an outlet pass, left it short of the net and allowed Azevedo to intercept. Axelrad, however, held strong and blocked the one-on-one shot. At 4:28, UCLA took a two-goal lead when Hewko fired into an empty right side of the net after fielding a lofted pass from Ormsby. Stanford climbed back to within a goal when Thomas Hopkins scored at 1:09 for the Cardinal's third extra-man score of the game.
In the fourth, Axelrad came up huge again as he fended off another wide-open Azevedo shot with under five minutes to play to maintain UCLA's 6-5 advantage. UCLA padded its lead when, at 3:14 in the final period, Ormsby found the back of the net after taking a cross pass from Garcia. However, the Cardinal would not go quietly, as Varellas brought Stanford to within one at 0:51 in the fourth and Azevedo tied the match at 0:21 after an offensive turnover sent the ball Stanford's way.
In the first overtime period, Stanford gained control at 1:56 when Hopkins found the back of the net from just outside four meters. The Bruins struck right back at 1:45 when Ormsby scored his second goal of the game for the 8-8 tie.
Heading into the second overtime period tied, Stanford took a 9-8 lead at 1:54 with another extra-man goal from Varellas. But the Bruins fought back again with Peck's first goal of the match after UCLA received a 6-on-5 advantage of its own. Powell scored the championship-winning goal with 0:13 remaining after a Hewko 6-on-5 shot sailed off the arms of Taylor and into Powell's possession. His shot deflected off Taylor again but this time dribbled past the goal line.
Notes on a Scorecard: UCLA allowed three goals in the first quarter, only the third time the Bruins have allowed that many first-quarter goals all season … Because of the national telecast of the match on College Sports TV, halftime was 10 minutes long instead of the traditional five minute break … UCLA played the overtime period without Garcia, Matt Jacobs (exhausted penalties) and Chris Pulido (game exclusion). UCLA has now won NCAAs five times in the past decade, Stanford four and USC one.