Nikos Delagrammatikas Goal Seals California’s 15th NCAA Men’s Water Polo Title

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Nikos Delagrammatikas; Photo Courtesy: California Athletics

Nikos Delagrammatikas Goal Seals California’s 15th NCAA Men’s Water Polo Title

Nikos Delagrammatikas’ goal with 28 seconds left on Sunday was the decider in an epic NCAA men’s water polo title game, allowing No. 2 seed California to upend top-ranked USC, 13-12.

Delagrammatikas, who tallied a goal and an assist, settled a back-and-forth affair in which neither team led by more than two goals. The game featured 10 ties.

USC (18-3) led 9-7 on Hannes Daube’s goal with 4:28 left in the third quarter. The Trojans took the lead three times in the fourth quarter. But Jack Deely knotted the game with 2:12 to play, and the Golden Bears forced a USC turnover with 2:12 to play. After a timeout, Delagrammatikas stepped up with the winning goal, and Cal held firm on the final possession to turn back USC.

“I can’t really describe what it means to me,” said Delagrammatikas, a grad student from Athens, Greece. “I’m a little overwhelmed.”

The title is Cal’s record 15th and first since 2016. It’s coach Kirk Everist’s fourth title in 20 seasons in charge in Berkeley. Cal had beaten UCLA, 15-13, in overtime of the semifinal, thanks to six goals from Max Casabella.

“That was a great game with two incredibly talented teams,” Everist said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to make a couple of more plays here and there. I really enjoyed just watching the teams go and battle.”

Deely scored twice and added two assists for Cal (22-4). Casabella tallied four goals and two assists, Roberto Valera notched a hat trick and Nikolaos Papanikolaou added two goals and a team-high nine deflections. That included a denial off an Ashworth Mothen shot when USC went up a man with six seconds to play, the ricochet skittering into the air as time expired.

Adrian Weinberg stopped 15 shots in goal for Cal.

Daube, the American Olympian, led USC yet again with three goals and three assists. Molthen tallied a hat trick and an assist. Wyatt Barker added two goals, four deflections and two steals, and Jacob Mercep paired a goal with three assists and four deflections. Nic Porter made eight saves and three steals in net.

Papanikolaou was named to the MVP of the NCAA Championship. He’s joined on the first team by teammates Deely, Casabella and Weinberg, plus USC’s Daube, Mercep and Molthen.