LA JOLLA, CA – If the UCLA Bruins could choose the venue for the NCAA Championships, San Diego would be a top option. The No. 1 Bruins returned to the site of their 1996 NCAA triumph over USC, its last national crown, looking to rise again. Coach Guy Baker and his squad got what they were looking for – UCLA rallied from a 4-1 deficit to score a 6-5 win over No. 2 Stanford. The Cardinal was seeking its first NCAA title since winning back-to-back championships in 1993 and 1994.
Stanford found the net first when Andy Walburger grabbed a rebound of a six-on-five shot and stuffed it home for a 1-0 lead. UCLA’s Sean Kern evened the count a mere 12 seconds later with the assist going to Andy Bailey. The teams traded possessions until freshman Peter Hudnut connected on a two-point goal to lift Stanford to a 3-1 advantage.
The second quarter saw both teams tighten up defensively, but it was the Cardinal who broke through first. Holeman Mark Amott drew a penalty shot midway through the quarter which was converted by Jeff Nesmith. With just under a minute left in the half, Adam Wright nailed a six-on-five shot to cut the Stanford lead to 4-2.
The third quarter was a pivotal one for the Bruins, as the defense dug it heels and the offense took advantage of its opportunities, resulting in a 3-0 run which put UCLA ahead for good. Kern led the charge, scoring from in front of the goal at the end of a counterattack after four nifty passes. At 2:03, Kern, named tournament MVP, tied the game with a six-on-five tally. As the quarter neared its end, it appeared the teams would head to the final huddle dead-even. But senior captain Matt Armato took a feed from Wright and hurled in the go-ahead goal with 1.5 seconds showing on the clock.
The Bruins got a bit of insurance at 4:32 of the final frame when Kern nailed is fourth goal of the match, this time from two-meters, for a 6-4 UCLA lead. Stanford’s Pasi Dutton sliced that lead in half, scoring a six-on-five goal from the post with 3:15 remaining. The Cardinal had its best chance to tie the match when Sean Joy streaked down the right side and fired a skip shot cross-cage which got past goalkeeper Brandon Brooks, but hit the crossbar and settled inches in front of the goal line. When the Cardinal got possession and called timeout with 54 seconds left, the teams readied for their biggest offensive and defensive efforts of the season. Three Stanford shots were tipped out of bounds, giving the Cardinal possession for roughly 48 seconds before Brooks finally controlled a shot attempt by Brian Heifferon, sealing the Bruins’ third NCAA title of the 1990s.
Championship: UCLA 6-Stanford 5
UCLA 1 1 3 1 6
Stanford 3 1 0 1 5
UCLA: Kern 4, Armato 1, Wright 1
Stanford: Hudnut 1 (1 2-pt), Nesmith 1, Dutton 1, Walburger 1
UCLA: Brooks 8
Stanford: Ellis 5
Officials: Bernard, Takata