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UCLA Has the Edge as Top Men's College Water Polo Teams Seek a Berth in NCAA Final Four -- November 3, 2004

LOS ANGELES, November 3. SPORTING a seven-match win streak, including a 7-4 thrashing of No. 2 Stanford last Saturday at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, UCLA's top-ranked men's water polo team has a good shot at
extending that streak with three games remaining.

The Brtuins play Santa Barbara this weekend at Santa Barbara, then return to Los Angeles to play USC at the Trojans' McDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium Nov. 13. They finish with Irvine at their home Sunset Canyon Rec Center pool the following afternoon.

UCLA, 18-2 overall and 7-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, will be the top-seed in the MPSF Tournament November 26-28 at the Armed Forces Training Center in Los Alamitos, presuming they finish the conference season unbeaten. The winner of that tourney gets an automatic berth in the NCAA Final Four the following weekend (December 2-4) at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.

No. 2-ranked Stanford has four games remaining, but two are against traditional arch-rival Cal, including the final match of the season on November 14 at Berkeley.

Defending NCAA champ USC should be the Bruins' biggest obstacle to finishing the year with a 10-match win streak but Irvine is hot too, having beaten the Trojans last Saturday at home.

The Bruins will be seeking their eighth NCAA water polo crown should they make the NCAA Final Four, and first since winning back-to-back championships in 1999-2000. Since then Stanford has won a pair of titles ('01-'02) with USC taking the top prize last sason -- at Stanford.

UCLA coach Adam Krikorian, a former Bruin All-America in the early '90s, also coaches the women's team. They have won two of the four official Championships since the NCAA instituted a women's Final Four in the spring of '01. Stanford ('02) and SC (last May) are the other schools having won women's crowns.

While the MPSF champion gets the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, the other three berths are decided by the NCAA water polo selection committee. Usually the MPSF runner-up also goes and two eastern teams are then added for geographic balance. However, since water polo became an NCAA sport for men in 1968, no team outside California has ever won the title or even played in the finals.

Cal leads all schools with 11 championships followed by Stanford's 10 and the Bruins' 7. Other title winners include: U Cal Santa Barbara, U Cal Irvine and Pepperdine, all of which will be competing in the MPSF Tournament.