STANFORD, California, May 12. UCLA won its fourth consecutive and sixth overall NCAA women's water polo title on Sunday evening, defeating USC, 6-3, in the championship match at Stanford University's Avery Aquatics Center. The victory was UCLA's 10th national title in women's water polo and UCLA's 101st overall NCAA title. Bruin seniors Gabrielle Domanic, Brittany Rowe, Courtney Mathewson, Jillian Kraus and Kamaile Crowell finished their careers with four NCAA titles and a pair of undefeated seasons.
The Bruins, who finished the season 33-0, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, playing tough defense, particularly on USC 6-on-5 opportunities. The Trojans shot just 2-of-12 on power plays in the contest.
First quarter goals by Tanya Gandy, Mathewson and Domanic gave UCLA its advantage, and the Bruins also put forth a strong defensive effort in the quarter, with Rowe making a big defensive stop just before Mathewson's goal and then making a field block on a power play shot attempt. Katie Rulon also made a block on a power play shot with 2:20 left in the quarter. USC finally broke through with a score with 1:28 remaining on a goal by Veronika Bartunkova.
The Bruins increased their lead to 5-1 at the half. Anne Belden scored her fifth goal of the Tournament less than a minute into the second quarter on a pump fake from the right side, and Gandy scored her second goal of the game with 3:09 remaining on a long-distance skip shot.
Defense ruled in the third quarter, as neither team was able to score for the first seven minutes. Goalkeeper Brittany Fullen made four big saves before USC scored the only goal of the quarter with 1:03 left on a score by Michelle Stein to trim the lead to three.
Up 5-2 with eight minutes to play, Rulon made a key steal that led to a Priscilla Orozco goal with 6:14 left in the game. The Trojans answered 45 seconds later with a power play goal by Miranda Nichols to trim the lead to 6-3, but the Bruin defense clamped down again and held on for the victory.
Gandy, who totaled five goals in the semifinals and finals, was named the Tournament MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament first team by Mathewson and Jillian Kraus. Second-team selections included Fullen, Rowe and Belden.
The five members of the 2008 senior class become the first women in UCLA history to win four consecutive NCAA titles and only the second class in any UCLA sport to win four straight, joining the men's volleyball senior class of 1984 (Ricci Luyties, Doug Partie, Roger Clark and Wally Martin). The seniors also join their former teammate Kelly Rulon as the only UCLA women ever to win four NCAA titles (Rulon won titles in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007). They finished their illustrious careers with an astounding 123-6 overall record in four years.
Special thanks to the NCAA for contributing this article.